It was big news earlier this month when Pope Francis hinted that there might be animals in heaven. Seriously? Is that even an issue? Would it be heaven if dogs and their people couldn’t be together in the next world?
Not to be immodest or anything, but I spend more time at church than most of the church members, so there better be a heaven for someone like me.
Still, I guess it’s not an accident that a Pope named Francis would have a large heart for humanity’s furry, four-footed friends. He took his papal title, of course, from St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), who was famous for his compassion for earth’s bestiary. When people wouldn’t listen to his sermons, St. Francis would preach to the birds. They say he once even turned a wolf into a vegetarian.
You may be asking yourself: How can a dog without thumbs type out an article? I can’t: I dictate. You may be asking yourself: How can a dog talk? I can’t: Bill and I have ESPN.
As the only canine staff member at Kenilworth Union, I would like to invite you and your pets to a St. Francis Service on December 27, the first Sunday of Christmastide, at 10:30 AM (just one worship service that day).
The worship service will be about 45 minutes long. Come as you are; any apparel is appropriate as long as you wear at least some apparel. Unless you’re a dog. Or a snake.
We’ll sing a couple of hymns, pray for all God’s creatures, read a cool Rudyard Kipling poem, and get every animal blessed by my Boss, the Senior Pastor.
All animals are welcome as long as they promise not to snarl at children or eat other animals–at least at church. We will be prepared for pets with less-than-perfect waste-management manners.
We’ll leave this to your discretion, but cats might do better at the service if they were in a carrier, because you know how unruly those felines can be. Sorry. I didn’t mean that. Yes I did.
If you have no living, breathing pets, children are welcome to bring a stuffed pretend friend to be blessed, and if you can’t make it to the service, call the Boss; he makes house calls.
St. Francis’s feast day and birthday is October 3, so most churches who celebrate a St. Francis Service do so the first week of October, but Christmastide is also a good time to do a Blessing of the Animals service, because so far as we know, St. Francis was the first one to put animals into a creche. There’s always been nativity scenes, of course, but it wasn’t till the 13th century that sheep and oxen and collies could be found there. Imagine that: a stable without animals. What a silly concept.
Maybe that’s why God arranged it so that the Christ Child was born in a stable: to remind everyone that God loves all things bright and beautiful, and all creatures great and small.