OPENING WELCOME TO THE PET BLESSING
Welcome to all those with paws and claws,
With wings and who can sing,
To those with smiles and hands
and with hope in their hearts.
Welcome to this celebration of St. Francis and William Wilberforce’s dream:
Animals and humans together making this world
a kinder, compassionate and more accepting place.
Let us now acknowledge God, the power of love,
the beginning of all possibilities
Gentle of heart
Kind of Spirit
You are in and through us all, the furred and unfurred,
The two-legged, the four-legged, the six-legged.
Open our eyes that we may see you in friend and stranger
Open our ears to hear you in the barks, the squawks, the voices and the silence,
Open our lips that we may drink in the delight and wonder of life.
Open our hands that we may reach out to one another, so that our world may be a kinder, compassionate and more accepting place.
BEYOND THE CLUB
Sometimes a children’s story contains a great truth:
“Grasshopper was walking along the road. He saw a sign on the side of a tree. The sign said MORNING IS BEST. Soon Grasshopper saw another sign. It said THREE CHEERS FOR MORNING. Grasshopper saw a group of beetles. They were singing and dancing. They were carrying more signs.
“Good morning,” said Grasshopper.
“Yes,” said one of the beetles. “It is a good morning. Every morning is a good morning!” The beetle carried a sign. It said MAKE MINE MORNING.
“This is a meeting of the ‘We Love Morning Club’,” said the beetle. “Every day we get together to celebrate another bright, fresh morning. Grasshopper do you love morning?”
“Oh yes,” said Grasshopper.
“Hooray!” shouted all the beetles. “Grasshopper loves morning!”
“I knew it,” said the beetle. “I could tell by your kind face. You are a morning lover.” The beetles made Grasshopper a wreath of flowers. They gave him a sign that said MORNING IS TOPS.
“Now,” they said, “Grasshopper is in our club.”
“When does the clover sparkle with dew?” asked a beetle.
“In the morning!” cried all the other beetles.
“When is the sunshine yellow and new?” asked the beetle.
“In the morning!” cried all the other beetles. They turned somersaults and stood on their heads. They danced and sang.
“M-O-R-N-I-N-G spells morning!”
“I love afternoon too,” said Grasshopper.
The beetles stopped singing and dancing. “What did you say?” they asked.
“I said that I loved afternoon,” said Grasshopper.
All the beetles were quiet.
“And night is very nice,” said Grasshopper.
“Stupid,” said a beetle. He grabbed the wreath of flowers.
“Idiot,” said another beetle. He snatched the sign from Grasshopper.
“Anyone who loves afternoon and night can never ever be in our club!” said a third beetle.
“UP WITH MORNING!” shouted all the beetles. They waved their signs and marched away.
Grasshopper was alone. He saw the yellow sunshine. He saw the dew sparkling on the clover. And he went on down the road.”
The beetle club had created meaning and borders around their enjoyment of the morning. Their allegiance to their club identity blinded them to the truth that was beyond their boundaries. They needed to expand their minds and hearts to recognize that they did not have a monopoly on truth, love, beauty, or God; and neither did any other club. That morning club could be a sports club, church, or a club of common ethnicity or nationality.
One of the great things about William Wilberforce who founded the SPCA in 1824 was that he pushed at the club boundaries of his class and culture. He dared to think that black slaves were human beings of similar status to white Europeans. He dared to think that animals should be treated humanely and compassionately.
Another great thing about Wilberforce was his persistence. For 18 years he brought his anti-slavery bill before the House of Parliament. It was the same bill every year for 18 years. Gradually, painstakingly, he tried to shift public opinion. Similarly in his advocacy for animals. The rights of the animal clashed with what was perceived as the rights of the owner. And of course owners voted and animals did not. But Wilberforce persisted resolutely in his belief of creating a cruelty-free world.
The challenge to us is expand our hearts and policies to include the excluded, to love the unloved, to befriend those who don’t speak like we do, and to challenge the artificial boundaries of the club mentality that condone discrimination and prejudice. For the sake of our animals, for the sake of our world, let us spread our arms wide to embrace and cherish all manner of life.