Tuesday, October 6, 2009

St. Francis Day and My Sin

     Our celebration remembering St. Francis took place on Sunday at the children’s service. We have held a small gathering outside on the lawn in the past, but this year our new rector wanted to have the pets come inside for the service. It was delightful! We had strategically planned to have the carpets cleaned this week, so we were not worried about any damage. My friends brought their two enormous St. Bernards. My cats decided to sit this one out. All congregants were well-behaved – an occasional snarl or two, but no biting – all were fed; all were blessed.

     After reading a children’s book that quickly covered the highlights of Francis’ life and faith, the rector invited me to add some words. I had not planned it, but I told this story:

     One of the greatest sins I ever committed happened one day while I was driving home. I saw a homeless man pushing a shopping cart piled with plastic bags and his other shabby belongings. Tied to the cart by a worn rope was a puppy. The dog trotting alongside the man appeared to be some kind of a golden retriever mix.

     Immediately I felt this anger rise in me. “What was this man doing with a dog? He probably doesn’t feed him right. He certainly can’t afford vet bills.” Thankfully, in almost the exact same moment those thoughts entered my heart, grace intervened, and I felt completely ashamed of myself. I realized that probably this was the only unconditional love this poor man had in his life.

     So often, we try to understand God’s unconditional love for us by surrounding it with too many words. Perhaps all we need to do is look into the eyes of our animal companions.


  1. Rick, you're only a little wrong. Your homeless man had the unconditional love of God in his life. His retriever puppy was merely a tangible presence of God sent to remind him of that fact, whether he was aware of it or not. I pray for that man, that he feels the love even after his earthly companion passes on. Remember the song "Mr. Bojangles?" The homeless man featured had a dog too. "The dog up and died, he up and died, and after twenty years he still grieved."
    Perhaps we need to remember that the homeless need their "family" also, and try to provide them with care for their pets, as well as for the people, when we do outreach. When we do our "pet blessing" at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Tuckerton NJ, we invite donations of pet supplies for the local food pantry. We don't get much, but every little bit helps. Perhaps the children from your children's service could get involved with a collection next year? They usually associate with the animals and it might be easier to get them to think of helping pets than adults in need. That can be scary for them. Just a thought.. God bless.

  2. I love it when pets get to come inside to church at the celebration of the feast of St. Francis. My home parish in San Francisco always did it that way and I've done it in most of my interims. The only exception was in Sausalito, where it was the tradition to invite the community (and lots and lots of animals) to the service which was held outside in a lovely garden. My Izzie likes the service because she gets to order all the other creatures around. Great story. I've seen many homeless with their dogs. I would think they are such a blessing in a life that has few.

  3. It was certainly interesting for me to read that post. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.


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