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A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals


Selections From The Ark Number 208 - Spring 2008

Calling On The Saints

For most of us the Catholic Church is a major part of our lives; we don't realise it, but in the background, our faith is guiding, or even ruling, our lives. Even those who leave the Faith, never quite leave it, and hopefully, can be called back. So why is this Faith, the Faith of over a billion souls, so slow to respond to some questions? We grow up knowing that God is love, and that we must love our fellows. In so many ways we follow this. But to me it is so sad that some who demonstrate love for fellow man are so slow at ever showing love for fellow earth-dwellers - the animal. At the church where I worship, occasionally a dog is seen accompanying its human - a well-behaved dog who makes no noise and slides quietly under a pew. But I can guarantee that there will be a devout RC who will make moan that 'church is no place for an animal'.

I have friends who work flat-out for the Church: flower arranging, preparing food for socials, collecting for the missions; and for a hobby ... shooting! Not clay-pigeon shooting, but killing real pheasants. Did God ever intend or design his beautiful birds to be slaughtered for a hobby for humans, or wholesale, for making a profit? I do not think so.

It is interesting to see diagrams of dogs, cats and rabbits; we, and birds and larger animals, are so similar in our design. We all have kidneys in the same sort of place. We have similar lungs and digestive tracts. Our similarity is frightening. God, the Great Architect, saw a good design and used it over and over again. And he made us all sentient; very similar in our feelings, the animal and the human. So now I ask the Church to stand up and recognise this.

We are the Church which, through history, has called on holy men and women to pray for us, to pray with us. We need to call on the saints. In heaven there are holy patrons for many, many causes. Let us wake them up, and ask them to help in the battle for the animal world

I will start with two very early saints. Firmin was born in AD 272, the son of a senior Roman soldier. He was baptised by St Saturnin, the first bishop of Toulouse, and himself became a bishop. Saturnin, for his refusal to sacrifice to idols, was killed by pagans by having his feet tied to a bull which dragged him about the town until the rope broke. The same fate was suffered by St Fermin, who was killed at Pamplona. How is their martyrdom commemorated??By bull-running and bull-fighting in Pamplona, the same sort of entertainment enjoyed by the pagans who killed them 1800 years before. So, on each 25 September (St Fermin) and 29 November (St Saturnin), let us remember these two priests who gave the sacraments (just as our priests do today) and ask them to pray with us for an end to barbaric practices.

I suppose that, to be a written-about saint, one has to be just that little bit different. One such I shall call on is St Sithney (4 August), a sixth-century Cornish monk (and nephew of St David of Wales). He is patron of mad dogs, and I know a little about those, after nearly 40 years of adopting neglected German Shepherd dogs! On 3 February, we celebrate Blaise: I often appeal to him for help with a sore throat, but he is also a patron of sick cattle.

Traveling in Europe, one can find small wayside shrines to St Roch (17 August). He is patron of many causes, including dog lovers. So why not, on 17 August, go to your nearest animal shelter and give them a donation, or a packet of Bonio-and tell them why. We have a duty to our saints: we want their help, but we must give them ours.

Today as I write this, it is the feast of St Marin de Porres: amongst many good deeds, Martin had (in his sister's garden) a home for neglected dogs and cats. Martin also had a great love for rats and mice. I think we should call on him for all animals in laboratories.

I write below a little Litany which you may care to use:

Holy Mary, pray for your Son's animal kingdom
St Jude, pray with us
St Anthony the Great, pray for domestic animals
St Dwyn, pray for sick animals
St Nicholas of Tolentino, pray for sick animals
St Modomnoc, pray for all bees
St Gall, pray for birds
St Mildburga, pray for birds
St Baldus, pray for cattle
St Colman, pray for horses and cattle
St Bueno, pray for cattle
St Cornelius, pray for cattle
St Ambrose, pray for geese
St Hippolytus, pray for horses
All holy men and women, pray that we may come to realize the importance of animals in God's world.

By drawing attention to these saints on their feast days, by dedicating Masses, by inserting appropriate Bidding Prayers and showing our fellow church-goers the interest that these, and many other, saints have in animals, we can raise awareness of the concern there is in heaven for them. After all, we have a duty through prayer to help our animal co-dwellers.

Jennifer Pothecary

Lemerle, Amesbury Road, Newton Toney, Salisbury, SP4 0HN (England).

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