Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi – patron saint of animals
“”Ask the animals, and they will teach you, the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.” Job 12:7-10
In this brief passage from the book of Job we learn that all forms of life have something to teach us. The animals, the birds, the plants, and the fish are all named together as beings who can teach us.
Later on in the book, God asks Job, “Who gives the ibis (a kind of bird) wisdom or gives the rooster understanding?” Of course, the unsaid answer to that question is undoubtedly God, who gives all creatures whatever particular wisdom they may possess.
In nature we often see different kinds of animals living together in symbiotic relationships. There are fish who live in the shadows of sharks. The sharks do not eat these fish but rather let them swim freely inside their mouth. The fish clean the shark’s teeth and live on the scraps of what they have eaten.
The shark has one kind of wisdom and the little fish has another. Both live and grow together, mutually benefiting from their shared wisdom. Dogs and humans, as an example, go as far back as history can record. We evolved in unison with each other. We have come into existence hand in hand with one another.
In this process of sharing wisdom, humans and dogs have developed a friendship. As the old saying goes, “a dog is a man’s best friend.” Wisdom calls us into friendship. Human beings have a remarkable sort of wisdom. We see things in a way that no other animal can.
Yet, our wisdom is not complete in itself. We can see that human ingenuity can be a source of death as much as it can be a source of life. When we forget our animal neighbours, who are also our cousins, our wisdom becomes self-serving.
But this disjointed and chaotic wisdom which humanity seems to have right now is not the only way. We can open our hearts and minds to the ancient song which all of nature sings. There is a natural harmony of wisdom and friendship which is beckoning us to return to it.
When we allow the wisdom of animal being to inform our own, we will no longer destroy the earth for our own short-term gain, but rather see, with eyes unclouded by ignorance, that our wellbeing is forever entwined with the wellbeing of all life on earth.”