That is the question.
The feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals, is October 4th, and every year around this time, I always ponder the idea of having one of my parish priests bless Sunny and Nikki. St. Francis loved all of God’s creatures, and once preached a sermon to a flock of birds. He saw animals as our brothers and sisters because they were God’s creatures, just like human beings are. He said of animals: “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it.”
I love this! There is no one who would deny the importance of human life, but I find that the opposite is true when it comes to animals. Animals are more than just creatures who roam the earth. For many centuries, animals have been of great service to man by providing food, clothing and transportation. And what about the animals who reside in our homes with us?
People love dogs and cats, but birds are still looked down upon when they are just as intelligent and loveable as their furry friends. The famous line I hear from people is, “They are just birds.” When I spoke about having my birds blessed to a family member she remarked: “I could see if you wanted to bless a dog, but birds?” When I mentioned St. Francis’ love of birds, another family member added, “He liked doves, not parrots.” How did he know? I think St. Francis would have loved being in the company of parrots. If he were living on earth today, I bet he would enjoy a nice trip to the Bird Jungle in Scarsdale, NY.
Yesterday, I gathered my courage to call up my church rectory and explain my request to the parish secretary. She seemed a bit confused. “What do you want to have blessed?” she asked. I guess Holy Rosary Church doesn’t get a lot of avian visitors. Once I got the green light that one of our priests, Father Martin, was available, my father dropped the girls and me at the rectory and waited outside until we were finished. While I was briefly waiting for Father Martin, I took the girls out of their carrier, placed them both on my left hand and held a towel in the my right. I held the towel directly underneath them because I didn’t want the girls to leave any gifts behind if you know what I mean.
Father Martin arrived and greeted all of us. He commented on how cute the birds were and assured me that I was doing a good thing. It was nice to have one person confirm that I wasn’t completely nuts. He led us to the sacristy, and before Father began the blessing, Sunny said “Hello” a few times, and Father said hello back. I was surprised Nikki didn’t say anything since she is known as the big talker. I guess she got a little shy.
Father recited a special prayer for animals while the girls watched him with childlike wonder. He blessed them both with holy water, and I thanked him. His blessing was very sincere.
I don’t know if the girls got anything out of it, but it was quite special for me. Actually, it was like an avian baptism so I was thrilled. I once read somewhere that looking at a bird can lead you back to God. I believe there is truth in that, especially today. We live in a high tech world full of wonderful things created by man, but this is no match to the wonderful living creations God made.
Though we are the most intelligent creatures on the planet, we are still lacking in one area and that is love. I have found that animals are great teachers when it comes to learning how to love. Their love is so simple and unconditional, and I believe that this is how our Lord loves all of us.