Brother Francis and the Friendly Beasts by Margaret Hodges with pictures by Ted Lewin is a children’s picture book about the life of Francis of Assisi. Francis was born into a wealthy family in Italy, but when he was a young man he renounced his wealth to serve the poor. He traveled the Italian countryside preaching God’s word and helping those in need. As he went, “he saw the beauty and grace of animals, of birds singing as they flew, of silvery fish darting in clear water. He heard the hum of insects in the roadside grass, and they, too, were beautiful. God was the father of all living things, and all were brothers and sisters. They gave him joy, and he sang for joy as he walked the roads.”

In Catholicism, Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and the environment. Every October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi is celebrated with a Franciscan Blessing of Pets, a custom that honors Francis’s love for all of God’s creatures. This is one of the prayers from the blessing service:

“The animals of God's creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea. They share in the ways of human beings. They have a part in our lives. Francis of Assisi recognized this when he called the animals, wild and tame, his brothers and sisters. Remembering Francis' love for these brothers and sisters of ours, we invoke God's blessing on these animals, and we thank God for letting us share the earth with all the creatures.”

Check out Brother Francis and the Friendly Beasts from the church library to learn more about Francis and help instill a love of God’s creatures in your children.

(From my church's newsletter, October 2011)