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By Susan Hines-Brigger

For the Love of Animals


Friend of the Animals
In the Spirit of St. Francis
For Teens: The Health Benefits of Animals
For Kids: Helping Animals in Danger


St. 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 and ecology.

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

• 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 society.

• 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 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



For Teens: The Health Benefits of Animals

Numerous studies have shown that pets provide positive health benefits for people. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control's Healthy Pets Healthy People Web site (, pets can help decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels in their owners as well as provide other health benefits.

At you can learn about Delta Society's Pet Partners Program that takes animals for visits to various settings such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities. Anyone over the age of 10 can become involved in this program, even if you do not have your own animal. If you are under 16, however, you must be accompanied by an adult and have permission to take part.

Visit the Delta Society Web site for further information on how to become involved in this program in your city.

For Kids: Helping Animals in Danger

There are lots of animals in the world, but some species are in danger of disappearing forever. For many different reasons, these animals need special protection.

To find out about some of these animals and why they are in danger, make a visit to the Kids' Planet Web site ( and check out electronic fact sheets on over 50 endangered species—such as mountain gorillas in Africa—from throughout the world.

Pick one of these animals and try to think of ways that you could help protect it. Tell your friends and family about the animal, draw pictures of it or see if there are books or videos about the animal at the library.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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