October 4 is the annual St. Francis of Assisi festival during which time Catholics around the world partake in a ceremony that is called the Blessing of the Pets. The custom has been around for many years and is a remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures and nature.
St. Francis is somewhat of a hero. Not only for his work with animals, or overcoming the crowds who bullied him for his beliefs, but because he followed his heart and he never let anything stop him in realizing his goals for animal welfare.
He was born in Italy, circa 1181 – he was born into a life of luxury and was known for drinking and partying in his youth. After fighting in a battle between Assisi and Perugia, he was captured and imprisoned for ransom. He spent nearly a year in prison waiting for his father to pay the ransom. Upon his release, he heard the voice of Christ who commanded him to repair the Christian church while living a life of poverty. And so, despite coming from a wealthy family and being accustomed to a life of riches, that is precisely what he did.
Later in life, Francis reportedly received a vision that left him with the stigmata of Christ – marks resembling the wounds Jesus Christ suffered when he was crucified – making Francis the first person to receive the holy wounds of the stigmata.
Francis pushed himself continuously in the quest for spiritual perfection and was soon preaching in up to five villages per day teaching a new kind of emotional and personal Christian religion that everyday people could understand.
He even preached to animals, which garnered criticism and earned him the nickname “God’s fool.” But Francis’s message was spread far and wide and thousands of people were captivated by what they heard.
He died at age 44. He was canonized as a saint just two years after his death, on July 16, 1228, by his former protector, Pope Gregory IX.
Here are a few of the quotes that he is famous for preaching:
- Start by doing what is necessary, then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
- All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.
- It is in giving that we receive.
The Moral of the Stories: Do what you know is right. Believe what you want, no matter how many people call you crazy for believing animals have souls, emotions, or as much of a right to exist as humans… just keep doing what is right.