Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Caring for little sheep and kitties and rabbits and bow-wow dogs ...

Death of St. Clare

Whenever I pray for creatures, especially when I pray for those that suffer cruelty and face extinction, or just when a helpless little animal suffers homelessness or ill health or anything else which causes them pain, I in turn think of the most vulnerable among us, the unborn child, the infants and toddlers and little children who suffer so much cruelty and violence. How closely they resemble the innocent suffering Christ. I'm also reminded how often Jesus pointed to the littlest ones as those dearest to his heart ...

Sometimes I wonder if I'm just being sentimental - likening the sufferings of creatures to those of children... going further, likening the sufferings of each to the meekness and humility of Christ in his sacred passion.  Yet if I am moved to devotion and prayer - that is no longer mere sentiment.  When I feel a sense of compassion for creatures it seems to me to be a signal to pray for children.  So I'm not ashamed to pray in that way. 

I'm likewise encouraged, considering St. Francis' superb compassion and love for the weakest and poorest on earth.

Here is a story for the feast of St. Clare.

St. Francis overflowed with the spirit of charity, pitying not only men who were suffering need, but even the dumb brutes, reptiles, birds, and other creatures with and without sensation. But among all kinds of animals he loved little lambs with a special love, and a readier affection, because the humility of our Lord Jesus Christ is, in Holy Scripture, most frequently and aptly illustrated by the simile of a lamb. So too especially he would embrace more fondly and behold more gladly all those things wherein might be found some allegorical similitude of the Son of God. Thus when he was once journeying through the March of Ancona, and after preaching God's word in that city had set out towards Osimo with Messer Paul whom he had appointed Minister of all the brethren in that province, he found in the fields a shepherd feeding a herd of she-goats and he-goats. Among the multitude of goats there was one little sheep, going along in humble fashion and quietly grazing. When Francis saw her he stopped, and, moved in his heart with grief said to the brother who accompanied him, groaning aloud, "Do you not see this sheep, which is walking so meekly among these she-goats and he-goats? I tell you that even so our Lord Jesus Christ walked, meek and lowly among the Pharisees and chief priests. Wherefore I ask you, my son, for love of Him, to take pity with me on this little sheep, and let us pay the price and get her out from among these goats."
And brother Paul, wondering at his grief, began to grieve with him. But they had nothing but the poor tunics they wore, and as they were anxiously considering how the price might be paid, a merchant who was on a journey came up, and offered the price they desired. They took the sheep, giving thanks to God and came to Osimo, and went in to the bishop of that city, who received them with great reverence.
The lord bishop, however, wondered both at the sheep, which the man of God was leading and at the affection wherewith he was moved toward her. But after Christ's servant had unfolded to him at some length the parable of the sheep, the bishop, pricked at the heart, gave thanks to God for the purity of the man of God. Next day, on leaving the city, Francis considered what he should do with the sheep, and by his companion's advice he handed it over to a monastery of the handmaids of Christ at St. Severino to be taken care of. The venerable handmaids of Christ received the sheep with joy as a great gift bestowed on them by God, and they kept it carefully for a long time, and wove of the wool a tunic which they sent to the blessed father Francis at the church of St. Maria de Portiuncula on the occasion of a Chapter [of the Order]. The Saint of God received it with great reverence and exultation of mind, and embraced and kissed it again and again, inviting all the bystanders to share his joy.

Another time when he was passing through that same March and the same brother was gladly accompanying him, he met a man carrying two lambs, bound and hanging over his shoulders, which he was taking to market to sell. When blessed Francis heard them bleating he was moved with compassion, and came near and touched them, showing pity for them like a mother towards her crying child. And he said to the man, "Why do you thus torment my brother lambs by carrying them bound and hanging thus?" The man answered, "I am taking them to market to sell, for I must get a price for them." "What will become of them afterwards?" said the holy man. "The buyers will kill and eat them." "God forbid," answered the Saint. "This must not be; but take the cloak I am wearing for their price, and give the lambs to me." The man gave him the lambs and took the cloak gladly, for it was of much greater value. (S. Francis had borrowed it that day from a faithful man, to keep off the cold.) When he had received the lambs he carefully considered what he should do with them, and after consulting with his companion gave them back to the man, charging him never to sell them or do them hurt, but to keep them, feed them, and take good care of them. - The First Life of St. Francis

I'm grateful to the Holy Father, who has announced a World Day of prayer for the Care of Creation, to be observed annually on September 1. The announcement here.

You become responsible forever for what you've tamed.


  1. I understand your love of all creation Terry: & I can not write about some of the things I have seen - cruelty of people: the hideous confusion of abused children: the mute suffering of animals - when I go there in my mind - I break down, without fail - and as I get older and "weaker" .... and I reflect upon my own insensitivity, now, and much more, in my youth: I feel such grief.
    " Sometimes our lives pass before our eyes.....our falling into which was the doorway...."
    I understand longing for death now - life can at times feel so unbearably sad, and filled with anguish.
    Thinking of the tears of Jesus - His own deep anguish, His humanity: wondering....about his late night prayers to the Father. Thinking about...the purity of the Holy Family, and how they could bear to So Fully and with Such Purity experience this world.
    On a lighter note (?), I know women, who work with fiber, knitting, weaving, spinning etc: who 'keep' sheep, and love them so much. A hard life for many of them, and one I admire. solitary. Like the little shepherds of Fatima.....
    Thank you for the story about the woolen tunic ! And for your great generosity of openness of spirit.

    1. I'm always making you cry - don't be sad. Big hug!

  2. I remember reading Antoine de Saint-Exupery (monsieur le comte, no less) and being introduced to the French verb "apprivoiser." Thank you, Terry, we are indeed responsible for what we tame, which appears to be all of creation.

  3. God's little creatures great and small are here to give us joy on earth. When I look at our pets I am in awe of just how well they were designed by our masterful Creator. How can one not delight in the big open eyes of a little five pound Chihuahua? Or the beauty of a furry cat whose face looks as it was painted in great detail? I smile at such beauty and give thanks for these gifts and especially since I can enjoy them.

    But behind such joy lurks evil even when done to little defenseless animals. This is such a story:



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