Reverend Lydia Smith writes …
The Foreign office cat, Palmerston, has his own Twitter account and a substantial Wikipedia entry. Then there’s Gladstone, resident feline at the Treasury, whose social media presence is via Instagram and the 10 Downing Street cat, Larry, who could be seen on Google Street View, asleep near the doorstep of his home (the photo has since been updated: it’s now a rainy day, and of course the cat is nowhere in sight).
The vicarage cats, by contrast, have a rather lower public profile. Billy and Winnie have taken very well to life in Layer but have shown no interest in sharing their opinions or photos of their dinner with a wider audience. And we don’t love them any less for that.
Companion animals are wonderful: for start they are good for your health (studies have shown that pets are good for lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety amongst other benefits). But there’s more to the relationship than that. For many of us, a pet is part of the family, particularly important as a comfort to us during challenging times.
St Francis of Assisi’s poem, The canticle of the creatures, affirms the connectedness that we have with animals and with all of creation. Through the hymn, he writes of elements in the natural world – sun, moon, stars, water – as brother or sister. And he encourages all the fellowship of creation to praise God. We still sing his words as a hymn today: it begins All creatures of our God and king, lift up your voice and with us sing.
We’ll be celebrating our animals and giving thanks for all they are to us at a Pets Service on 19 September in St John’s Church at 10.30am. Please come with your animals: cats to centipedes, spaniels to stick insects are all welcome. And after we’ve blessed the creatures, there’ll be brunch for us humans to enjoy.