Last Sunday, my dog Joey went with me as a guest to historic Bruton Parish Church for the annual Blessing of the Animals. All things bright and beautiful, all creatures, great and small…. Perhaps you too took a dog—or a cat, a gerbil, a canary, or even a horse—with you to your own church that day. For us in Williamsburg, rain forced the service indoors, so no horses or goats attended. Still, there were plenty of animals peeping out of the pews once used by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other persons (both great and small) of their day: dogs of all sizes, a hamster, and at least one Siamese cat, plus a variety of stuffed animals. Joey loved it! We all did. How easy it is to love the creatures we tame and invite to be a part of our family.
Later that afternoon, I went by myself to my home church in Yorktown, donned one of the bee suits kept in the shed, and fed the bees—that is, replenished the sugar water in the two hives that are getting established there. With the flowers dying as days continue to shorten, opportunities for gathering nectar are diminished, so the church beekeepers are supplementing our bees’ food to ensure they have enough to get them through until spring. All things wise and wonderful…. How easy to appreciate, and to want to help sustain, the amazing animals whose work—in this case as pollinators—benefits our well-being.
Then there are the creatures that are difficult to appreciate, let alone love. Mosquitoes spring to mind. During the Revolutionary War battle that took place in the little village where I live, mosquitoes claimed more lives than did the armed fighting. In many parts of the world, mosquitoes remain a major source of human illness, misery, and death.
Are there prayers we might say on behalf of mosquitoes, for surely they too are part of God’s creation? Or do we bless only the “bright and beautiful” and “wise and wonderful” animals we understand, love, and benefit from?
I have no answer. Certainly I resist blessing anything that causes such enormous human suffering. In the end, I can only leave mosquitoes to God—and perhaps give what I can to a relief agency that tackles malaria in developing countries or provides mosquito nets to those living without window screens. I can do what I can to help heal and protect our earth—even as I acknowledge that, like the mosquito, I sometimes bite, sting, do harm to others. I can bow down in humility before the awesomeness of the universe even as I pray for harmony among God’s creatures. And I can continue with a grateful heart to thank God for all the gifts of creation that are indeed bright, beautiful, wise, and wonderful. Amen.