Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Francis and the Blessing of Animals

Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, born circa 1181, founder of the Franciscans and patron saint of animals and the environment. Never officially ordained a priest by the Catholic Church, he is nonetheless one of the most beloved, well known and venerated saints of the church. You can watch the story of his early life in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. You can also listen to a song by the same name here, if you are so inclined.

Today is also known as World Animal Day, and coincidentally, Hug a Non-Meat Eater Day.

On this day around the world, many churches perform a blessing on animals. Not just cats and dogs and the usual household companions, but horses, turtles, tigers, etc. A wonderful slide show from around the world can be found here. However, you don’t have to be Catholic to honor and celebrate the life of St. Francis of Assisi or to participate in his Feast Day.

You can do your own blessing and hold it indoors or outdoors. The Blessing of Animals is conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures. You can use the prayer of St. Francis, or change the wording to suit your own spiritual path:

Prayer of Saint Francis for Animals

God Our Heavenly Father,
You created the world
to serve humanity's needs
and to lead them to You.
By our own fault
we have lost the beautiful relationship
which we once had with all your creation.
Help us to see
that by restoring our relationship with You
we will also restore it
with all Your creation.
Give us the grace
to see all animals as gifts from You
and to treat them with respect
for they are Your creation.
We pray for all animals
who are suffering as a result of our neglect.
May the order You originally established
be once again restored to the whole world
through the intercession of the Glorious Virgin Mary,
the prayers of Saint Francis
and the merits of Your Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ
Who lives and reigns with You
now and forever. Amen.

Our three cats, and our two beautiful Rhodesian Ridgebacks, both of whom have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Our house no longer barks, but it still purrs. This just shows how animals can get along, sometimes far better than humans.
Collect items around the home or make purchases and donate them to animal shelters. Call and ask what their current needs are.

Design and create an outdoor shrine for animals, either in general or for a beloved animal companion that has passed.

Winter is coming. Make plans to set out food for wildlife. Consider creating a wildlife habitat.
The Feast Day provides many animal welfare advocates, animal rights activists, educators, caregivers and animal rescue organizations with the opportunity to educate the public about abused and endangered animals as well as the beauty, purposefulness and importance of animals in our world.
The bond between human and animal companion is unlike any other relationship. It is basic, loving, pure and without agenda or fa├žade. The Feast of St. Francis and the Blessing of the Animals attest to the beauty and sacredness of this relationship. Why not share this blessed day dedicated to St. Francis and his love for all creatures with your special animal companion?

St. Francis Prayer of Peace

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

International Day of Non-Violence

Today is the International Day of Non-Violence. It is celebrated on October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence. It is a day "to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence" and a day to raise the collective consciousness about peace. This can be achieved through constructive dialogues, respecting one another, understanding and trusting each other, accepting new people in society, sharing love and natural resources, and building bridges with various faiths, communities and countries.

According to Gandhi, “Nonviolence needs more courage than violence.”

I find it interesting that the day falls during the same month as Vegetarian Awareness Month, with its focus on eating a diet that is cruelty-free and non-violent.

To that end, I marked the day by cooking up a spinach stew, which was a recipe I adapted from The Peaceful Cook cookbook.

I have in my home what I refer to as my *peace wall*. It is a collection of things I have that either use the word peace or the peace sign. Too young to have been a hippie, I have nonetheless embraced the peace sign as a reminder to me to not just live peacefully, but to BE peace, an idea I got years ago from an article in Mothering magazine.

Some visuals you can create in your home with your children can be found here.

Today make every effort you can to live in peace and harmony with friends and family. Avoid or disengage from conversations and situations that become heated. Smile at everyone you meet or pass by on the street or in the hall. Step out of your comfort zone, if you must, and invite a coworker or a neighbor to lunch or out for a cup of coffee or tea, especially if they are from a different religion, political party or ethnic group than you, and take a moment to get to know them. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised to discover they are just like you in ways you never knew.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy World Vegetarian Day!

World Vegetarian Day is a day of celebration established by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) "to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism." It is a day designed to "bring awareness to the ethical, environmental, health and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle."  It kicks off Vegetarian Awareness Month, and ends on World Vegan Day, November 1.

For vegans, like most of my family, every day is a day to celebrate! We practice ahimsa, or the concept of harm to none.

While veganism and feng shui are not new to me, it was the ideas set forth in Robin Robertson's book The Sacred Kitchen that got me to viewing meal preparation differently. In her book, Robertson says, "When you introduce your own chi to the mixing bowl, you unknowingly convey subtle, imperceptible influences into the food as a result of your attitude." She takes it further by explaining how you impart the energy of your own life force into the food as your touch it, imbuing it with what you are thinking and/or feeling at the time. Bad mood=bad energy, good mood=good energy. While this may sound strange to some, it makes a great deal of sense to me. If you have ever walked into someone's home and known instantly that something was amiss before you ever even spoke with the inhabitants there, you will know what I mean.

Robertson describes a ritual that I do to this day before cooking:

Ritually wash and bless your hands. Calm your mind with three deep breaths. Utter a simple prayer to align yourself with spirit. Ask for peace of mind and heart. Affirm your holiness as your prepare the meal. Play soothing music while you cook. Visualize white healing energy flowing from your head through your hands and into the food. Maintain a prayerful attitude while cooking.

Viewing cooking as a sacred act and the kitchen as a sacred place will greatly affect and change your perception of what you may have previously viewed as a chore. Instead it becomes a blessing you bestow upon your family and friends who will be dining in your home.

To get you started in your celebration of both World Vegetarian Day and Vegetarian Awareness Month, visit The Zen Vegan for a variety of delicious recipes!

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