Sunday, 4 October 2009

Animal Instinct

So the former French President is poochless. Jacques Chirac has been forced to give away his dog who has now bitten him three times. The aptly named Sumo, a Maltese Terrier, is now enjoying life on a farm after, says Mrs Chirac, suffering from depression on leaving the Elysee Palace. The dog has had problems downsizing, it seems, from the freedom of the large palace gardens to a smaller, more modest apartment. Earlier this year, Mr Chirac was hospitalised after the dog sank his teeth into an unnamed body part. In the latest attack, Mrs Chirac said Sumo was lying quietly at her feet but flew into a violent rage as her husband approached, biting the former French leader in the stomach. "I was very scared because there was blood,' she said. 'It's terrible, the small teeth like that. He was going wild. He wanted to jump up and bite again.'

There were no bites or blood or scrams or violent rages today at St Saviour's for the Blessing of Animals on the Feast of St Francis'...despite the mix of one cat, three dogs, a hamster, two giant snails, two praying mantis and a dove. There are many stories of saints awash with animals: St Cuthbert having his feet dried and warmed by an otter, St Francis preaching to birds and befriending a wolf, St Kevin waiting patiently, palms up, whilst a bird nested in his hand, until the eggs hatched and the youngsters flew the nest. Holiness and intimacy with creation appear to go hand in hand, it seems. Are they just fanciful pieces of folklore, stories spun out of all proportion? Certainly when it comes to appreciating the natural world there is not always room for emotion or sentimentality. But sometimes, perhaps, there is room for intimacy and well, yes, love.

Whilst spending time (some years ago now!) on my ordination retreat, we were regularly attacked by a seagull who swooped down into the college grounds, its shrill threatening cry ringing in our ears, the flap of feather just a few (webbed) feet away. But the seagull could be forgiven. She/he was just protecting the young who had flown the nest. But I felt far from holy. Where was Kevin, Cuthbert and Francis when you needed them? Glorying, perhaps, in the splendour and wonder of creation, appreciating the flap of feather, the beautifully created bird of the sea. We were just watching our heads.

Link to Chirac Story

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