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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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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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