Columnists Mark my words

This is definitely not a pet peeve

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Several years ago, someone knocked on my door in the early evening.

My neighbor’s daughter was standing there and asked, “Would you have time to come and say a prayer over George?”

I was honored to be asked since George was not a Catholic. Heck, George wasn’t even human. He was this gentle giant of a dog that belonged to my neighbor John, who isn’t a Catholic either.

I found John sitting on a chair in his garage looking over George who was resting on a blanket at his feet. George gingerly lifted his head when I came over. He probably was disappointed that I came empty-handed because I usually gave him “a” (more like three or four) Pup-Peroni stick as a treat.

It was obvious, though, that age and pain had caught up with George. I sat beside him and pet him as I prayed over him. I thanked God for all the joy he gave to the neighborhood, for his tenderhearted nature, for his loyalty to John.

Lastly, I commended him into the loving hands of St. Francis. As I finished the prayer, the vet pulled up, to ease his transition from this life.

I excused myself, bravely walked back home and then cried my eyes out.  

I like that the feast of St. Francis of Assisi is in October, when the church celebrates Respect Life Month. While our focus during the month is primarily on human life, St. Francis invites us to expand our vision of the God of life, all life.

It’s no accident that St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and ecology. He reminds us to respect all God’s creatures, as well as this planet that we call home. And he’d encourage us to learn from the animals around us, as in this story:

A woman once found a small dog near her back door. The poor creature appeared to be hurt, although not seriously. When she reached down, he licked her hand and let her pick him up. She took him into the house, made him a comfortable bed and fed him.

Over the next few days, the dog got friskier. As she opened the door one morning, the little guy zipped outside and ran away. The woman said, “Why you ungrateful little cuss! You left without so much as a ‘thank you’ bark for all I did.”

Later that day, she heard a scratching at the back door. When she opened it, there was her little friend, wagging his tail and jumping. And behind him, he’d brought along six of his friends — all in need of food and care.

Now, that dog was a little evangelist. He knew the source of food and healing and brought others to experience it as well. If only we Christians were wise enough to do this to our friends and neighbors, to lead them to Jesus, who nourishes and heals us.

If your parish has a blessing of animals, attend it. If not, say this shortened one from “Prayers for the Domestic Church” by Father Ed Hays:

“May we bless this animal with a Noah-like protection from all that might harm him/her. . . . May we never treat (name) as a dumb animal, but rather let us seek to learn his/her language and to be a student of all the secrets that he/she knows.

“May God’s abundant blessing rest upon this creature who will be a companion for us in the journey of life. Amen.”

Afterwards, reward these companion(s) with a treat . . . or two!

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Fr. Mark Goldasich

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