It’s right up there. It may be my favorite pastoral day of the year. A day when we recall the loving legacy of St. Francis and honor the animals in our lives.
What a gift that 22 furry friends gathered on the Sacred Garden lawn. We reveled in the music of Rev. Amy Sens. After many minutes of sound system wrangling, we were able to secure some amplification. How patient the canines were as we waited to kick-off our time together. The balmy temps of a warm October day were a welcome change from last year’s Noah Ark-like monsoon.
There were several folks from the church present, and it was wonderful to look out and see a dozen neighbors or so there to celebrate their pets.
There was one kitty. A beautiful soul, one-eyed, and timid who let me gingerly touch her head. And there was also the surreal moment when a woman with her dog pulled out her phone: would you also bless my ten year old fish? There was a picture of her fish on the phone. She held it out for me. I felt a surge of such love for this fish. I could feel the joy that it is has brought its human.
We gave thanks for the ways that our companions shepherd us through the hard places. I shared about a toad that jumped out of the grave plot a few weeks ago during a burial in this very Garden. What could bring us better hope in this time than a toad covered in ashes leaping from the tomb? We have our expectations about how things will go and our animals help keep us in this moment. Especially in these COVID-19 months we are apt to speed up into the desires of the next season or look so longingly about what has been pre-pandemic. Our animals–God’s creation–these beautiful friends have helped to keep us grounded into the needs of this moment, in the midst of life and death. For this, we give thanks.
After we were all finished and wrapping up, a woman came breathless: “Is it too late for the blessing?” She not only had her dog with her, but also the ashes of two beloved cats. There was the chance for the memorial blessing of those who had gone before as such a source of comfort. There was a blessing for the dog who would walk her home. As we walk through our valleys and into the paths of this time, we are in good hands in the company of such loving shepherds.