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Finding Faith in God's Creatures View Comments
By B.G. Kelley

When watching nature shows on TV, I marvel at the animals: their intelligence, their rituals, their
instincts, their ability to fly thousands of miles. I am amazed by their ability to hunt, to communicate, to establish hierarchies, to mate for life—indeed their very presence.

The more I observe and learn, the deeper my appreciation of the genius, the beauty, the adaptability, the ingenuity and the elegance of animals becomes. The more we all learn from and about animals, the easier it becomes to rebuke the belief that they are mindless machines tantamount to a pencil sharpener or a lawn mower without awareness or feeling. The more we learn only behooves us to form a wiser and more mystical concept of animals.

During his 1982 visit to Assisi, Blessed John Paul II invoked the spirit of St. Francis when he said in his message on reconciliation, “Creation is the marvelous work of the hand of God. His solicitous care, not only towards men, but also towards animals and nature in general, is a faithful echo of the love with which God in the beginning pronounced his ‘fiat’ which had brought them into existence. How can we not feel vibrating in the Canticle of the Creatures something of the transcendent joy of God the Creator?”

St. Francis, the son of a prosperous Italian cloth merchant whose birthday on October 4 has given rise to “World Day for Animals,” has also provided documentation by historians of the intelligence of animals.

Historians relate the story of the man-eating wolf of Gubbio to cite the striking rapport that can take place between humans and animals. The wolf terrorized the citizens of the Italian city of Gubbio for many years with his predatory attacks on humans and other animals. Recognizing that the wolf’s ways had sprung from hunger, St. Francis communicated to the wolf that the townspeople would provide food for him as long as he, in return, would not harm another human or animal.

Historians are in agreement that the wolf bowed his head in acceptance of the saint’s offer, and for the rest of his life the wolf respected the covenant, going from house to house every day to be fed by the townspeople until he died of old age.

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B.G. Kelley is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Runner’s World. He is married and lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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