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Thank You, St. Francis
By Susan Hines-Brigger


A Faith Lift
Following St. Francis
For Teens: Lend a Hand
For Kids: Animal Safari

One of the hardest parts of being a parent arises when you face a situation for which you don't have any easy answers. Recently, my husband, Mark, and I faced just such a situation when we had to have our dog, Hobbes, put down. Hobbes had been a part of our family for 14 years. In many ways, she was our first child and a sibling to our children.

Hobbes was not the first animal we had lost in our family. But she certainly was the most beloved. Her death raised questions that previously had been unasked concerning other family pets that had gone before her.

When we broke the news to the kids, the first question our five-year-old daughter, Riley, asked was, "Is Hobbes in heaven?" She then wondered if she would ever see Hobbes again. Luckily, I was able to lean solidly on my faith when I answered.


A Faith Lift

I talked to them about St. Francis and his connection with animals. St. Francis, whose feast we celebrate on October 4, is the patron saint of animals and the environment. I told them that I believed Hobbes was in heaven and that St. Francis was taking good care of her.

It was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to incorporate our faith and beliefs into a situation in our everyday lives—and provide a positive aspect to a very sad occasion. That evening, we spent quite a bit of time reminiscing about Hobbes, recalling our favorite stories about her and speculating about what St. Francis would love most about her.

Following St. Francis

Animals and pets are a very big part of many people's lives. Here are some ways to celebrate that connection between our pets and us.

Search for answers. The July 2003 article "Will I See My Little Doggy in Heaven?" by Father Jack Wintz, O.F.M., addresses the question of whether we'll see our pets in heaven.

Bless your pet. This month, pet blessings will be taking place across the country in honor of St. Francis. Check here to see if there is one near you. If there isn't a blessing near you, you can perform your own pet blessing using the following prayer—found on this Web site:

Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. On the fifth and sixth days of creation, you called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all animals his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this animal. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.

Meet St. Francis. Read stories about St. Francis and his connection with animals, such as St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio.

Bring St. Francis home. Find a statue or some other item relating to St. Francis, such as a plaque or birdbath, and place it in your garden among the animals.


It's no secret that there are many animals that have less-than-ideal lives. Throughout our country and the world, shelters take many of these animals in and do their best to care for them and possibly get them adopted. But, unfortunately, many of these shelters are constantly in need—of volunteers, funds and loving homes for the animals.

Gather some of your friends and come up with a way in which you can all help these animals and the people who care for them. Call your local animal shelter and ask if they need volunteers. If not, offer to make treats for the animals. You can find recipes on the Internet.

If you'd like to take your efforts a bit broader, research organizations that help animals and raise funds. Donate to whichever organization you all select. Recently I read an article about some girls who were asking for donations of Dawn® soap to send to the Gulf Coast to help clean the oil off the animals affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Be alert to other animal needs closer to you.

The other day when I was taking a walk in my neighborhood, I noticed there were a lot of animals running and flying about. I saw three bunnies, too many birds to count, many squirrels and some cats and dogs. It was a good reminder that animals are quite a presence in our daily lives.

Make a list of animals that you think you might see in your neighborhood, community or part of the country. For instance, do you live on or near a farm? If so, then you might see cows or horses. If you live in the Southwest, you might spy some coyotes, lizards or other animals you wouldn't see elsewhere. Then bring your list the next time you go out for a walk or for a drive and check off the animals you see. Or if you have a camera, take pictures of the various animals you see.

Another thing you can do is to take care of some of those animals by doing things such as putting out birdseed or bread crumbs and providing water for the birds in your yard.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at "Faith-filled Family," 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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