Reflection: Fr Robin Gibbons on Feast of St Francis of Assisi


I have an icon of St Francis, written for me (and with some input from myself!) by Fr Dobromir my iconographer friend. Here the saint is pictured very much as some of the earliest paintings portrayed him (possibly from life), his love of creation and animals is shown especially in his Canticle of all Creatures and stories like the Wolf of Gubbio, but as cats have had a rough deal at certain times in Christianity (persecuted as evil-especially poor old black cats) and as they are now very popular as human companions (pets) I asked that a domestic cat be held safely in the arms of the saint, as a sign that he is one who guards and cares for all living beings and all creation. It's no accident it has a resemblance to Betty, one of my cats!

I have often taught in my ministry as a priest that we should make far more of our baptismal day, make it a yearly celebration when we renew our vows and place our hope in the Christ who calls us onwards, for this is also our Christian birthday, that moment when we became true disciples of the Lord and also his brothers and sisters.

Today is my baptismal day, so in honour of Saint Francis who has done a good job of guiding me, and in gratitude for all the many blessings of my faith, but also to welcome a new great nephew born early this morning, I wrote a prayer, the first I hope of many animal prayers. This one is the Prayer of the Canon's Cat. As I'm a Canon and love cats ( having my own) the first had to be a cat's prayer.

Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,

( St Francis Canticle of all creatures)

The Prayer of the Canon's Cat!

Dear Lord,
I am only a cat,
a little furry carnivore who hunts to eat, which some people do not like.
But I have to say that's Your fault, for You created me and all I can do is accept how You have made me!
In my defense, I have also been a friend to humans, an individual companion down the ages, even a god to ancient cultures and a friend of saints but reviled and killed along with wise women in a darker times!

Unlike my friend the dog I choose to do many things and go where I want to go, but I always return to the house of my humans.
I bless them with my purr, I respond with joy to their stroke.
I play with them in gratitude for the love you give me with them.
I see their joys and sorrows,
I rest beside them or sit on a knee,
when I am at one with them, I know I am Your healing touch.

I pray too for my big brothers and sisters hunted by other humans.
Shadows of their former glory, creatures of our planet pushed close to extinction by human stupidity.
Look after them as you look after me:
May they feel the shadow of your wings protecting them this day and every day!

Lord, I am grateful my humans are better than that, showing me love and trying to understand my ways, look after them.
I am sorry for the damage I do to those I hunt, but I ask You to help me understand a little better my place in creation and Your love for us all.
I sing your praise with my voice, meowing in hymns and purring in prayer for the many gifts and blessings you have given me.

So Lord, keep all living things in your love,
and at the last may I come with my humans and all other cats,
to sit by the fire in the hall of the Kingdom of `Heaven.
There may I rest in peace and contentment
with all living beings,
warm and secure in our true home.

Amen

Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church, Oxford

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