Celebrating St Francis
This week I will conduct a blessing of animals for the parish where I am the interim rector and for the children enrolled in our parish day school. I value the opportunity to remind adults and to teach children that God loves all of God’s creation, including all animals, whether alive or stuffed (the latter sometimes more popular with young children!).
In an era characterized by diminished protection for endangered species (e.g., expanded permission to drill for oil and natural offshore and in the arctic, rollback of clean air standards, and several attempts to increase coal consumption), celebrating God's concern and care for all life is especially important. Caring for creation is an unavoidable nexus between religion and politics. Whatever one’s political affiliation, God has entrusted humans as God's stewards to care for ALL creation.
St. Francis represents more than a reminder calling us to love and to care for all of God's creation. Theologian Ilia Delio has written:
The saints are icons of evolving love. When Francis of Assisi heard the words, ‘Go, rebuild my church which has fallen into ruin,’ he first took the words literally to mean repairing the broken-down church where he was praying. So he gathered stones and began to rebuild the walls of the church.
In time, however, he realized that the church is not built with stones but with human hearts centered in divine Love. So he threw himself into the project of love, making the love of God the sole purpose of his life. This was not a starry-eyed love sequestered in the privacy of a cloister. Francis encountered divine Love in the disfigured hand of a leper. Overcoming his revulsion of lepers, he found a God who delights to be among the simple and rejected.
The world is pregnant with God, he discovered, but it is only a heart in love who can see God. The love revolution that Francis initiated upset many people, but it changed the world around him. Seeing the beauty of Love’s many expressions, he made his whole body a tongue by which he preached the gospel.
To see God, one must first love. In loving an animal (or a person, flower, star…), a person develops a loving heart that will, in time, begin to see God's presence in the world.
Who or what do you love? In that love, do you see God? If not, perhaps you love the wrong thing (an idol that cannot give life, e.g., money) or perhaps you love insufficiently, with what you call love really being narcissistic self-love.
 Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2013), Kindle Location 3866-73.