St. Francis of Assisi is remembered on October 4. Many churches have a blessing of the animals and remember the various ways he cared for all who were suffering. St. Francis believed that humans and animals were created by God to be a family and to live in harmony with one another. He also said, “Those who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity will deal likewise with their fellow man.”
It’s no secret that I am an animal person. My pets are my family.
Sunday evening I had to make one of the most emotionally difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in my young adult life. I’ve known for a year that my cat, Tigerlily, my very first pet as an adult, had cancer. It was a matter of time before it would finally get the better of her. My mom, who was graciously house-sitting while I was gone for a conference, rushed Tigerlily to the emergency vet because she was having a hard time breathing. The vets found fluid surrounding her lungs and two large tumors in her lungs. Over the phone I had to make the decision to end her suffering.
As I think about living with one of God’s creatures, I can’t help but see how much Tigerlily taught me about God’s love for this world. I have read in the bible over and over again about the myriad of ways God loves us. I know it in my head, and most of the time I trust that God really does act in these ways. Looking back at how Tigerlily loved me over the years brings it to heart. We can read the bible and know that God is with us through life’s joys and challenges. But it is another thing to experience God’s continued presence with us through steadfast and enduring relationships. We also often hear that God loves us despite the fact that we always fall short of being in relationship with God. We know in our heads that God patiently waits for us to be more prayerful, come to worship, live out our faith, but it doesn’t mean much until we experience God’s love in those relationships. We have these relationships with people, but nobody quite models this love like a beloved pet. Tigerlily was always there, always patient and found ways to love me through her squeaks, gentle head nudges, and the comfort in her soft purrs.