The Mary T. and
Frank L. Hoffman
Letters and Responses
Conversation with and Atheist: Dave Godin
- With a very important message about true love and compassion -
Letter from Dave Godin - 10 June 2002:
Although I am an atheist, I feel exactly as you do about animal beings and have the utmost respect for people of whatever religion if they are sustaining life on earth.
However, I was delighted to find that prayer of St. Basil (Enlarge Within Us) on your site which I have been searching to find again for ages. (I had it in a book which I have since lost). But, I think it has been foreshortened since I recall that the last line continues (and I am writing from memory, so cannot claim to be word perfect) "...and that they love the sweetness of life as we do, and perhaps serve Thee better in their place than we do".
It is amazing (and heartening) that somebody could have thought such kindly thoughts in the year 275, and that completed last line certainly has a very sound theological truth to it. It is fixed in my memory because
(a) I share its feelings, and
(b) I reproduced it once on a leaflet we handed out on St. Francis' Day to churchgoers to help make them more animal-aware, and one dear lady took it, tore it into little pieces, and threw it over me like confetti!
Perhaps somebody could research this and check out the complete text. I think it was quoted in a book called "The Psychic Power of Animals" that I had. I'll see if I can get our library to get a copy, and if so, I'll contact you again with the full text as was printed there. Keep up the good work. My cat, Elsa-Sama, is sleeping quietly at my feet as I write this. And my favourite painting is "The Peaceable Kingdom". Hasten the day!
With warm regards and best wishes,
Dave Godin (Sheffield, England)
Response from Frank L. Hoffman - 11 June 2002:
Thank you very much for your letter.
We looked up St. Basil's prayer in our references, and both were the same as we have published, but we did find another discrepancy. One lists the year as 275 and the other as 375. We'll continue to do some more research. And, we agree, it would be nice to add that last line.
The woman who tore up you handout is the typical example of the hard of heart "so-called" Christians who have chased compassionate people out of the Church. Is your atheism in some way connected to this problem?
Give Elsa-Sama a cuddle for us.
In the Love of the Lord,
Reply from Dave Godin - 18 August 2002
At long last, I have found the prayer of St. Basil in its complete form. According to my source he lived from 330 - 379, so it seems your second date is the accurate one. It also states that he was Bishop of Caesarea. Here's the prayer (I've laid it out as it is in my source):
The earth is the Lord's and the fullness
Thereof. Oh, God, enlarge within us the
Sense of fellowship with all living
Things, our brothers the animals to
Whom Thou gavest the earth as
Their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that
In the past we have exercised the
High dominion of man with ruthless
Cruelty so that the voice of the earth,
Which should have gone up to Thee in
Song, has been a groan of travail.
May we realise that they live not
For us alone but for themselves and
For Thee, and that they love the sweetness
Of life even as we, and serve Thee in their
Place better than we in others.
It is such an inspiring statement, and sums up my own feelings even though I am an atheist, although that said, I do have a copy of the painting "The Peaceable Kingdom" by the American Quaker primitive artist, Hicks, which epitomises the world I would like to live in.
I don't know if there was one particular thing that propelled me into non-belief, but certainly the animal issue would have played an enormous part.
I have always loved animals, and remember to this day when I was about five years old, we lost a beloved companion dog, Peter, who died of old age, and I asked my Granddad if he would go to heaven. His reply was so considerate and sweet. He said of course he would, but what happens is he'll sit outside the Gates until I arrive, and then we'll go in together! What a lovely vision.
On an "intellectual" plain I find it impossible to go along with any "received dogma", and I fail to see how or why, if God is "ineffable", we try to understand him - it seems almost arrogant to me. Maybe I'll just have to try and "serve in my place" as best I can, and hope for understanding and compassion if I'm proved wrong!
My cat, Elsa-Sama greatly appreciated the cuddle you sent her. There is no doubt about it in my mind that once you perceive animal-beings as we do, one's whole perspective on everything changes so totally and completely. And that, believer or non-believer, is a true blessing! Keep up the good work and I'll keep on over here. Next year I will have been vegetarian for 50 years (vegan for the last six) and our local paper wants to do an interview with me to mark the occasion. It will be a good opportunity to preach the gospel of kindness and compassion.
With warmest best wishes to you all.
Response from Frank L. Hoffman - 18 August 2002
Thank you very much for sending us St. Basil's prayer and your comments.
Even though you claim to be an atheist, both your writing and your name speak forth in the love and compassion of the Spirit of God.
We'll most likely get your version published tomorrow.
In the Love of the Lord,
Follow-up response from Frank L. Hoffman - 19 August 2002
We have published the addition to St. Basil's prayer. Thanks again!
We have been emotionally touched by your letters, and at the same time filled with sorrow over the hardness of heart of most professing Christians when it comes to animal issues.
It was wonderful hearing that you've been vegetarian for 50 years. For reasons of compassion, Mary and I began our vegetarian journey about 30 years ago and became vegan about 15 years ago. We would really like to read the upcoming interview and would also like to republish it.
Please give Elsa-Sama another cuddle for us, and tell her to give you a hug from us, too.
In the Love of the Lord,
We welcome your comments
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