A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows. ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Leaves of scarlet, gold, vermilion drift down from sun-glazed maples and sassafras. Gratitude fills my heart for this annual show of wonder.
October skies surprise sometimes. Shimmering, soft columns of late afternoon light filter beams of memories of last year’s autumn days. Like a scampering squirrel darting through life, I gather them up to tuck safely away like the acorns that plop, bounce and tumble pell-mell into the garage from tall oaks nearby.
I hear the acorns drop. Walking to the mailbox on this October day, I’m reminded. I’ve been here before – on an ordinary day that turned into extraordinary, by the mere act of getting the mail. Smiling, I glance across the road to the neighbor’s drive. I can still see her there, the tawny-striped kitten that sweetly meowed, looking straight at me, as if she owned my heart. Somehow, I knew she and I would share a journey.
I’ve heard of close encounters of the angelic kind, never imagining it could happen to me.
Last October, I tuned in to a calling that I hadn’t expected. Always, I’ve loved the stories of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. October 4 is the Feast Day for St. Francis in the tradition of the Catholic Church. While I’m of protestant upbringing, I’ve a great reverence for the saints among us.
The life of St. Francis is exemplary in his passion for all things beautiful, for Nature and all God’s creatures. The Prayer of St. Francis is one of humanity’s favorites; and truly he was one of the great luminaries of all time.
A year ago in October, I tuned in more than ever to the heart of St. Francis, as I found myself nurturing back to health – or so I thought – this brave stray kitten who’d adopted us. Her ginger personality matched her gold and creamy stripes.
Sensing an angel encounter, I named her ZuZu – after the little girl in my favorite Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life.
ZuZu wasn’t destined to age gracefully and beautifully, however. She had some kind of inherent condition that precluded that. But, she had a lot to teach me.
I began to think about the power that animals have in shape-shifting our lives. I gained a greater respect and curiosity for the ever-expanding field of human and animal interaction and communication. Now, the subject fascinates me.
Now, I see endless possibilities for greater awareness of our relationships with our animal companions. ZuZu came at a time when I needed to learn about letting go… of relaxing into the seasons of life and going with the flow of it.
She helped me feel that it’s OK to relax and let go of my negative thoughts, as though they were leaves fluttering down from the trees or acorns that she playfully batted around the garage.
She taught me, with her heart of gold, that I could be gentle and compassionate with myself — that I could live each day with gratitude for each moment, trusting that love and light would be there for me, whenever I could allow myself to accept and receive it.
Her sweet spirit touched me, in the spirit of St. Francis, like a sunbeam.
ZuZu taught me that I could daily be inspired in this light, in this joy of being; that each day, as naturally as the breath of life, I could let go, leaving the shadows behind; that I could be like the Prayer of St. Francis.
ZuZu, in reality, was nurturing me.
Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where thereis darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be consoled as to console,
Not so much to be understood as to understand,
Not so much to be loved, but to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we awake to eternal life.
~ St. Francis of Assisi