If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.–Francis of Assisi
Compassion and pity are not the soup of the day in the social buffet that is life in America these days. We are much more about getting in people’s faces and either judging them, condemning them, or dismissing them. Even those who preach compassion on our street corners, have a pretty hard edge to their compassion. We seem to be mostly about judging, even when “care and compassion” is the tagline we use for what we say and do. It is not a surprising reality, when you think of the variety of cultural leaders in our world whose political speeches are venomous … whose music is violent … whose media posts are cruel … and whose speeches are unforgiving. We live in an angry, judgmental and divisive world. It can be a depressing broken record, that seems to play night and day in our lives and world.
So, this past Sunday … October 4th … the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi … felt like a breath of fresh air, when I was blessed to join a few other dog and cat owners for our yearly Pet Blessing Service, led so ably and faithfully by Sister Dottie this year. Now admittedly, the two cats that were present were a bit aloof and judgmental towards all the goofy dogs that were present. That is just what cats do when in the presence of their canine distant relatives. But those goofy dogs modeled the epitome of a welcoming spirit, the unconditional love for their owners, and the indominable joy for life in every bark and sniff and leash strain that they brought to our gathering on Sunday.
And I thought to myself, “If only everyone in the world could act like a dog.” Imagine a world with no posturing and pomp … no hatred and judgment … no animosity nor disrespect. It is an almost inconceivable dream in the world in which we life. Maybe that is why a record number of dogs have been adopted during our Covid-19 months of social isolation. Maybe people are craving unconditional love … a love that doesn’t need you to check off on the twenty-five traits your friend expects from you … a love that is at times a little slobbery and smelly … but a love that is genuine and unconditionally directed to you, not because you deserve it, but because the one who offers it knows no other way to love. Sounds a little like God, doesn’t it?
That’s a world I could easily fall in love with … and world that doesn’t just talk about love … a world that doesn’t throw that love in the face of others like a weapon … a love that doesn’t isolate and alienate one from another in the name of love … but simply offers a wet, sloppy kiss of unconditional love and affection. Yeah … give me a dog over some people, every … single … day. Dogs are God’s modern-day priests and healers in the world. St. Francis knew that … we might do well to learn it, too.