I spend a lot of time here lately talking about my rambunctious little goblin of a baby. Awesome as she is, I would hate for you to think I have taken to neglecting Bilbo.
For those of you who have never met him, I have a ridiculous dog named Bilbo. Bilbo wants to be friends with everyone he meets, but he chooses to express this by howling at them as if they were a violent intruder. He needs to work on his social skills. When I took Amanda over to meet Sam the self-assured cat, our intrepid baby intrepidly approached her potential feline friend with delight and determination. Fifty-five pound Bilbo, on the other hand, leapt into my lap in fear and did not stop trembling until we were well on our way back home. He looks at the gate we have half-heartedly leaned up against the doorway between the living room and the dining room as if it were an impenetrable fortress. I am not sure if his border collie genes failed to bestow proper intelligence upon him, or if he just is so obedient that he never tries to knock it over.
At any rate, as I sit here on a beautiful fall afternoon, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of Starbucks with a coffee and a pumpkin scone it occurs to me that we are almost exactly half-way between two not unrelated celebrations: St Francis Day and Thanksgiving. (Even if the American in me can’t quite bring myself to justify the legitimacy of Thanksgiving celebrated in October.)
If you think about it, thanksgiving and the Feast of St. Francis do have rather a lot in common. It is rather unfortunate that we all too easily fall into the practice of treating Thanksgiving as if the spiritual impetus for the holiday were merely sitting down and enumerating the various things we are thankful for: I am thankful for a happy, healthy daughter, for a husband who’s willing to be an awesome stay at home dad, and for Farscape. Never forget Farscape. But lets be honest. We can never really, fully articulate all those things that we are (or ought to be) thankful for. For many of us, the scope of God’s blessing is just too vast for our comprehension. Not only that, but that attitude of treating thanksgiving as a time merely to “count our blessings” is also troublingly self-focused. Thanksgiving becomes a celebration about what God has done for ME, not what God has done for the whole world. Perhaps we are better off if our sense of Thanksgiving is less about trying to count all the specific things God we believe that God has given US and more about the goodness and bounty in all of God’s creation.
Thus the connection between this autumnal celebration of gratitude and the Feast of St. Francis. What more do we celebrate when we commemorate St Francis than the goodness of God which is made manifest in the whole of creation? Francis reminds us, in a way, that God’s creation is something glorious and wonderful in its own right, not just in terms of what it bestows upon us. We hold services of blessing for our pets because we recognize that God loves all his creation—including our fuzzy, furry, scaly, or slimy critters. And we are reminded that in caring for them, we care for one of God’s believed creatures.
And so we return to my peculiar pup. I am thankful for Bilbo. Some days, I’m not sure why. He doesn’t really do anything for me. He barks at all the wrong times, and he has a tendency to lick the baby far more often than I’d like. When I want to get something done, he insists on getting all up in my personal space. But when I’m home alone and just want to cuddle on the couch, he will have nothing to do with me. He is, in other words, weird and wonderful, just like God’s delightful creation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.