Friday, October 4, 2013

All Creatures Great and Small

My Wife Karen With Our Two Dogs -Hildy and Gus

It was a magical moment this morning when I walked out into my meditation garden. A "change-of-season" wind was swooping through the desert valley and all creation was dancing in the cool morning breeze.

The sun was just about to rise, but the moon and morning stars still filled the skies; and they were all dancing in the wind -the palm trees, the bright red bougainvilleas, the budding hibiscus, my prize olive tree, the citrus trees, desert sage bushes, all rhythmically swaying in the breeze. 

As I sat in my garden, my two dogs at my side, I watched the many varieties of our desert birds as they flew to the feeder and sat at the edge of the gurgling fountain.  And in my peripheral vision, I could even see a desert roadrunner scurrying about in the distance. 

The swirling wind was also causing the wind chimes to sound. They were gently drumming out a beat for the great cosmic dance that was happening in that magical moment, and I was dancing along with it all - a swirling mass of interconnectivity. It was indeed a magical moment, and what made it ever more magical was the fact that today is October 4th- Saint Francis' Day, 2013.

As I sat in the garden this morning, taken up in the flowing rhythm of creation's dance, I gazed on my image of Saint Francis hanging on the wall. Saint Francis is an honored figure in Christian churches as well as in in many other different religious traditions. In fact, I know several people who think of themselves as atheists or agnostics who tell me that they hold Francis of Assisi in high esteem.

Francis' life presents us with a universal model of how we human beings can dance in the rhythm of the cosmos. 

I sometimes joke that Francis was a follower of Jesus, but he was also a good Buddhist. He was an Enlightened One who understood the truth that everything is connected.  He met with popes, kissed lepers, and made a place at the table for the poor and the marginal.  Stories and legends of Francis depict the birds of the air resting on his shoulder, the wolf and other wild animals lying at at his feet. He called the sun, the air, the wind and the storms his brother -  the moon and the stars were his sister, the earth his mother. 

It is a common practice in many Christian churches to bless animals on or around Saint Francis' Day. 
In my years as a parish priest, I would eagerly look forward to the day of animal blessings. Over the years I have blessed cats and dogs, snakes and lizards, hamsters and rabbits. I've even blessed a horse.

In my last parish we used to invite the animals to come into the church for the morning service. (They were also allowed to bring along the people they lived with). Throughout the service one could hear the sounds of wonderful harmonious cacophony as the choir sang and dogs wailed to the playing of the organ - cats scurrying about.

During the service,  the animals were brought up to the front of the church to receive a blessing.   I would touch or hold them and address each one as "my fellow creature". 

I never actually felt like I was blessing the animals. They were blessing me - teaching me that we are all in solidarity with one another- all creation, a swirling mass of interdependent interconnectivity in a great cosmic dance.

Happy Sant Francis' Day.  

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