Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pet Blessings and becoming human

Choral Evensong 27 Sunday in Ordinary Time

Some of the Junior Boys and Girls Choirs
4 October 2015

This afternoon we had the annual blessing of the animals service with the SPCA.  The Boys and Girls Cathedral Choirs led the music and there may have been about 120 people present, a large number of dogs and one brave rabbit and one (even braver?) guinea pig.  I am told there was a lamb but I missed it in the chaos! It was a good service.  There were few Cathedral people present but it is a service that brings in folk from all over Dunedin; some from different faiths and some with no particular faith at all.  The common element is that they care about animals.

That is really where I want to start the reflection this evening.  I don’t want to start from a ‘biblical position’ or a dogmatic theology basis – nothing so abstract.  I simply want to start from us and our experience.  Here goes. 

What happens to us when we care about animals?  I think caring is a process rather than a simple attitude; to care is to pay attention and as we increasingly consider our pets and discover their needs, we learn more about them and they become part of us.  So we build parts of our lives about our pets and our lives become more complicated as we make adjustments to accommodate our pets.  
Part of the congregation 2015

It’s no good saying ‘X of Y is just a dog’: for the attentive dog owner the inner reality is much more than that. Through the process of caring and companionship the owner is changed.  As the owner adapts to the needs of the dog (it might equally well be a goldfish, though I doubt that would work for me) the owner becomes more human and more humane.  Emotionally, spiritually we have started to move into another dimension: we are moving beyond ourselves and moving across species.  Our animals teach us to be human.

The emotional connection we make with our animals can teach us also to start to become more attentive to the life of the creation about us.   We become more aware of these other ways of being in the world; we become more attuned to the richness and diversity of creation.  That also changes us as humans: it should certainly make us more compassionate; deeply concerned about animal welfare; how we care for the environment; what we can do to prevent cruelty to animals and, at least, better in how we treat one another. 

Votive Candles,in remembrance of pets who have died
So when we bless the animals we are sharing in a deep spiritual connection that changes us and how we connect with the world about us.  Think of the animal or pet that you most remember and ponder how that animal may have helped you become more truly human.

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