Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Rebuild My Church... and Bless the Animals

On this feast of the beloved Poverello of Assisi, the following passage from Bonaventure's Life of Francis is worth recalling:
“One day when Francis went out to meditate in the fields he was passing by the church of San Damiano which was threatening to collapse because of extreme age. Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray.

Kneeling before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with great fervor and consolation as he prayed. While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord's cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times: 'Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.'

Trembling with fear, Francis was amazed at the sound of this astonishing voice, since he was alone in the church; and as he received in his heart the power of the divine words, he fell into a state of ecstasy. Returning finally to his senses, he prepared to put his whole heart into obeying the command he had received.

He began zealously to repair the church materially, although the principle intention of the words referred to that Church which Christ purchased with his own blood, as the Holy Spirit afterward made him realize....”
For the record, the moment recounted above took place in 1204... yet then as now, the call of the Cross remains the challenge of our time. So as the work continues, on another St Francis' Day and always, may we all ever just keep on, keep trying and -- flaws, faults, warts and all -- keep building.
Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me true faith,
certain hope and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
that I may carry out, Lord,
Your holy and true command.
* * *
Meanwhile, lest anyone here likes their 4 October a bit, er, furrier, while this feast is already beyond popular for the customary Blessings of Animals -- and, out in Southern California, another year of a Catholic-led "Blessing of the Waves" (because, hey, they're creation, too) -- did you know that, back in 1931, St Francis' Day was formally adopted as World Animal Day?

Either way, lest anyone hasn't had a nearby Pet Blessing and would like taking part, the formal Rite for the Blessing of Animals can be done by anyone, anywhere... here are the core prayers:
[Option 1] O God, the author and giver of every gift, animals also are part of the way you provide help for our needs and labors. We pray (through the intercession of Saint Francis) that you will make available for our use the things we need to maintain a decent human life. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

[Option 2] O God, you have done all things wisely; in your goodness you have made us in your image and given us care over other living things. Reach out with your right hand and grant that these animals may serve our needs and that your bounty in the resources of this life may move us to seek more confidently the goal of eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The text likewise features this sweet dismissal: "May God, who created the animals of this earth as a help to us, continue to protect and sustain us with the grace his blessing brings, now and for ever."

So in that light, every joy and grace of the day to one and all... especially our furry friends, whatever their sort.

PHOTOS: Getty(2)