Event a tribute to a tender, kind friend and protector

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For the fourth consecutive year, all pets and their owners will be welcomed to a special event on Oct. 6 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Harriman, where they will be offered God’s blessing.

“Marking the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, we will celebrate our pets and reaffirm our role as caretakers of God’s creatures and creation,” said the Rev. Harry Howard, who will preside at the service. “All pets and their caretakers from every denomination are invited.”

The church will open for the event at 2 p.m.; the blessing ceremony inside the church will begin at 2:30.

Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis deal with his love of animals, who found in him a tender friend and protector.

St. Francis had given up family wealth, his position as son and heir, and stripped himself before the community, committing himself to God’s love and work alone.

Early legends have left many an idyllic picture of how animals and birds alike were open to the charm of St. Francis’ gentle ways and entered into a loving companionship with him.

Legend has it that St. Francis attracted followers who wanted to share his life of sleeping in the open, begging for morsels to eat – but, most of all, loving God.

With these followers, he knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life so he opened the Bible in three places.

St. Francis read the command to the rich young man to sell all his goods and give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily.

He intended to do what no one thought possible any more – to live by the Gospel.

According to data edited by John Coulson in “The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary,” the record of men and women who are recognized by the Church as fulfilling the command to love God and neighbor, St. Francis has been hailed as the most lovable of the saints.

“Francis lived always on the spiritual level and spoke the language of the soul and not of the mind,” the text reads. “He was a man of extreme simplicity. He had only one aim, to love Christ and to imitate Him and His Life perfectly, even literally, and he followed this aim ever more completely from his conversion to his death.”

St. Francis’ brotherhood included all of God’s Creation and his love of nature stands out in bold relief of the world he moved in.

He delighted in communing with the wild flowers, the crystal spring, and the friendly fire, and to greet the sun as it rose upon the valley.

Insight into his “world” is provided by this familiar prayer, the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Additional information is available at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 190 Circle Drive, in Harriman’s West Hills area. Call 882-1272 for details.