September: Inspired by Nature


As I write this article, our family is currently on vacation at the Estes Park YMCA camp in Colorado. We are in a cozy cabin, and surrounding us are some of our favorite four-legged friends: elk, deer, and mountain squirrels too many to number. One of my children is particularly fond of deer, and literally squeals with excitement every time he spots a deer, saying “deer!, deer!, deer!”

Nature is a holy place, and I find the outdoors more majestic and inspiring than even the most ornate cathedral. As the naturalist and explorer John Muir once said, “keep close to nature’s heart...and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” 

Living in a city such as Houston, it is easy for us to forget the beauty and splendor of nature. Therefore I am grateful for all those who tend gardens, nurture trees and help to create beautiful green spaces in our city. At St. Andrew’s, I am particularly grateful for those who tend our beautiful outdoor space. Many are the days when I look outside the window of my study and see Susan Kelly among others carefully tending so many of the beautiful plants and flowers that pepper our campus. I am grateful for her good care, and that of many others who help to make St. Andrew’s such a beautiful and welcoming space. 

The splendor of creation extends itself into the city in many other ways, of course. The animals who live with us in our homes are faithful companions whose presence brings comfort and peace into our lives (unless of course, you are trying to house train a puppy!). Religions around the globe recognize the holiness of animals in many ways. When I visited a Buddhist monastery in Tibet years ago, I was surprised to see so many dogs living there. When I asked one of the monks (who thankfully spoke English) why dogs were permitted in the monastery, he explained that in the reincarnation cycle, dogs represent souls who in the next life will be reborn as humans. Therefore dogs were pampered guests at the monastery!

Within the Christian tradition, St. Francis is perhaps the most venerated (but often the least imitated) of the saints – known particularly for his relationship with animals. The Feast Day for St. Francis is always October 4, which this year is a Saturday. At St. Andrew’s we will commemorate the Feast of St. Francis with an outdoor service and blessing of the animals from 4 – 6 PM on Sunday, October 5. All animals are welcome and their human companions are welcome!

Following the blessing this year, St. Andrew’s will host a festive outdoor party featuring hot “deity” dogs, activities for children, live music by the Jeff Morrison Band, and beer provided by St. Arnold brewery (Saint Arnold was the patron saint of hop pickers and Belgian beer makers). All are welcome as we celebrate the gift of God’s creation on the Feast of St. Francis!