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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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