When she was eight years old, my niece Audrey asked me the very important theological question, “Does God have pets?” Now, she had an ulterior motive for this question, as she was angling to be allowed to get a dog (this was before Penny, and then Hugo, came into her life!) – but nevertheless, it is an intriguing question. I responded, “Yes, I think WE are all God’s pets.”
If we are all God’s pets, maybe there is something to be learned from our relationships with our own pets, that can then be applied to our relationship with God. One of the things that makes us human is that we have a perception of time – of the past, and of the future. So much so, in fact, that we spend quite a lot of time rehashing the past, or worrying about the future, and we spend relatively little time in the present moment.
Animals though seem to live almost entirely in the moment. They are fully present in that moment, whether they are eating, playing with a ball, barking at potential danger, even just settling down for a nap. And there is a radical simplicity to that kind of existence. It might be hard for us to achieve that kind of presence to the present, if you will. But there are a few people who have come close – to whom we can look as role models – and St. Francis is certainly one of them. Today is his feast day, and we will celebrate him this Sunday at 2 pm with a Blessing of the Animals in the garden.
And in his honor, I invite you this week to spend a little time each day being more like your pet, or more like Francis. Letting go of the joys and sorrows of the past, and expectations and fears of the future, and just feeling what it is like to truly be in the present (as you eat, play, or even settle down to a nap) – truly present to others, to ourselves, to God who is always present to us. Who knows, maybe it will move you, like Francis, ever so slightly closer to sainthood!!