Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Animal Crossing

Our household has been home to many pets---rabbits, fish, hamsters, birds, and the latest guest, a guinea pig named Bubbles. The doctors periodically caution that pet dander exacerbates our allergies, but we ignore the warnings. Our furry friends give us unconditional love, a gift all too rare from our two-legged acquaintances.

Cynics and Skinnerians may scoff that we just imagine that our pets love us. Animals, they say, are just practicing learned behaviors to provoke the desired reaction from their food dispensers. The scoffers may be right, but judge for yourself: when you look into your pet’s eyes, is there an intelligence that is looking back?

Tomorrow is the day that we remember one of Christendom’s greatest saints, Francis of Assisi. Francis was the patron saint of animals and the environment. He founded the order of Friars Minor, from which sprang other orders that are prominent in Catholic and Protestant churches. And, lest we forget, we live near the city that bears his name.

During this week many churches hold a special service to bless pets and their guardians. Last weekend two ministers from our parish set up a table at the local park and said a prayer over every pet that was presented. At least 40 people showed up. It was a rare experience---strangers brought together by a common interest, chatting amicably for an hour, and no one buying, selling, or wanting anything from the other. Eight centuries after his death, the light of Saint Francis shines brighter than ever. © 2006 Stephen Yuen

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