St. Francis of Assisi and The Blessing of the Animals
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.
Trinity Episcopal Church Newsletter, November 2014
Photos by Reba Graham
Saint Francis of Assisi was an eleventh-century Italian friar revered for his ability to communicate with animals and his feeling of oneness with all creation. Born the son of a wealthy silk merchant, he led a privileged life as a youth. After a vision and much introspection, he gave up his frivolous lifestyle, donated his possessions to the needy, and turned to a life of poverty. St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order for men and the Order of Saint Clare for women and spent his days serving and preaching to the poor and sharing his love for nature and animals.
There are wonderful stories of St. Francis talking with and preaching to animals including doves, crows, fishes, and a rabbit. Perhaps most notable is the story of his interactions with a wolf that was terrifying the people of the small town of Gubbio. The vicious wolf struck fear into the hearts of the villagers as he attacked and ate animals and people alike.
St. Francis went outside the city gate accompanied by a friar and several peasants to confront the wolf. Overcome by fear, the peasants soon stopped and would go no farther, but St. Francis and the friar continued walking. The snarling wolf jumped out of the woods and charged them. St. Francis made the sign of the cross then spoke to the wolf and negotiated a pact. The wolf resolved to no longer terrorize the townspeople. In turn, the villagers agreed to feed the wolf. They lived together in peace until the wolf died of old age.
We continue to recognize the ministry of St. Francis to all living creatures by celebrating The Blessing of the Animals on the Feast Day of Francis of Assisi. This October 4, parishioners of Trinity Episcopal Church and students of Trinity Episcopal School brought much-loved pets or their pictures for Father Jim to bless. The wonderful array of animal friends included dogs, cats, fish, a ferret, a hermit crab and more. Each year this special day serves as a reminder that we, like St. Francis, should show love and compassion for our pets and all of nature every day of the year.
Trinity member Sue Furman, Ph.D. has published two books on canine massage and teaches canine massage, canine acupressure, pet first aid and CPR. She also writes a weekly column for the Victoria Advocate.