Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Every year at St. Margaret's we celebrate the feast of St. Francis with the blessing of the animals. It is a time for people to bring their animals for blessings, but also a time to acknowledge the blessings that our four-legged companions are in our lives. This year will be bittersweet for me because it will be the first St. Francis Day celebration that my dog Sirena will not be with me.
Sirena Von Brewer Lucas-Retherford was my Christmas present from Mark. She was a very energetic, vain and stubborn Christmas present; but she was also extremely loving and fiercely loyal. We went to Von Brewer's kennels to get a puppy, but this 20-month-old dog started following us around. The kennel owner said that she had never seen anything like it. "Clearly," she said, "this dog has decided that you are her people." And so it was.
Since I was in charge of Sirena's training, she spent a lot of time with me. She commuted to work with me, ran with me and herded children with me. She wanted to sleep in my bed, and no matter how many times I told her that wasn't happening, she refused to give up hope that one day it might happen. Her infectious optimism and her friendly disposition always managed to make my bad days better.
Sirena even made friends on my behalf. Unlike me, Sirena was an extrovert. She loved meeting new people and making new friends. I don't know how many times I met people because they had gotten to know Sirena when the kids were walking her or when she had decided to take herself on an unauthorized walk around the neighborhood.
For nearly 13 years, Sirena was a treasured member of our pack. She blessed us with her dog-ness. She taught me that there were new treasures to be found even on the same old running path. She reminded me that there was always time to play. She demonstrated over and over that sometimes being willing to sit beside the person who was sick or sad was the best medicine.
In recent years, there has been a lot of research about how pets improve your health and overall quality of life. I figure that anyone who has been blessed to have a pet companion already knew that. Our pets bless us by reminding us of our humanity. And that can only make our lives better.
This Sunday, in addition to the blessing of the animals, I invite everyone who has lost a pet to bring photos in for remembrance and to give thanks to God for these creatures who brought us blessings.