Francis would love my house. We have one dog, two gerbils, a tank of fish, a
bunny, a one-year-old son who's obsessed with ducks and a four-year-old daughter
who spends most of her life acting like a dog and begging her father and me
for horseback-riding lessons. In fact, as I'm writing this, she's in the other
room barking at her brother.
Most people would probably consider my house a zoo. I prefer to
think of it as simply living out the call of St. Francis, patron saint of animals
Friend of the Animals
Throughout the world this month, many people will honor St.
Francis on his feast day, October 4. St. Francis viewed all of creation as his
sisters and brothers, including the animals. In fact, numerous stories have
been told about St. Francis and his preaching to the animals.
According to one story, he preached to a flock of birds in a tree
about the many reasons that they should be thankful for God's love. The birds
sat attentively listening, and did not fly away until St. Francis told them
that they could leave.
Another more-often-recalled story of St. Francis and an animal is
that of the wolf of Gubbio. A wolf was terrorizing the town of Gubbio, Italy—killing
and eating people. The townspeople wanted to kill the wolf, but before they
had a chance, St. Francis interceded on behalf of the wolf and convinced him
never to kill again. In exchange, the people promised that they would provide
food for the wolf.
In the Spirit of St. Francis
This month, as you celebrate St. Francis, have your family explore
ways to emulate Francis' love of animals and all of creation.
Every October, people honor St. Francis' feast day
and his love of animals by holding pet blessing ceremonies.
These ceremonies take place throughout the world and range
from simple to elaborate, such as the one held at St.
John the Divine in upper Manhattan.
Check to see if one is being held at your church or in your area and take
your pet. If you don't have a pet, just go and see all the
different types of animals that show up. For a listing of
pet blessings in all 50 states, visit www.americancatholic.org/Features/Francis.
Did you know that St. Francis is the patron saint of zoos? Make a trip
to your local zoo in his honor. Most zoos have volunteers
who can tell you a lot about the various animals. Take advantage
of this opportunity.
Make a donation to or volunteer at a local animal shelter or rescue
Have everyone in your family name his or her favorite animal and explain
why. After everyone is done, pray St. Francis' Peace Prayer.
Many gardens contain a statue of St. Francis because of his love of
creation. (St. Fiacre is actually the patron saint of gardeners.)
Place a statue of St. Francis in your yard.
For many people, losing a pet is like losing a family member. If you've
lost a pet, take this opportunity to tell your favorite remembrances.
Do you think your pet is a sign of God's love? If so, log on to www.americancatholic.org/Features/Francis
and tell what it is about your pet that demonstrates God's
love. Is it the way your dog is always happy to see you when
you come home? Or the way petting your cat relaxes you after
a stressful day?
While you're there, check out the other features and
stories about St. Francis and his love of creation.
Next Month: Gather at the Table