June 29, 2007

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

God created first the beasts and birds

Shirley Vogler MeisterLast month, while family members from northern Indiana were visiting us here, our neighbor, Frank, came by to compliment our eldest grandson, David, on the fine work he is doing with our landscaping. All the family agrees.

While Frank and I talked, I remembered that I hadn’t shown him a purple columbine that unexpectedly appeared in the back of our property this spring.

As we walked in that direction, something else unexpectedly appeared, scurrying toward us.

My first words on seeing the little critter were, “Oh, an albino mouse!”

Then we noticed a dark spot on his side as he continued down the driveway to where David was working in the yard.

Of course, we alerted others inside the house so they could see how sweetly tame the mouse was.

My daughter, Diane, who called him Stuart (Little) after the mouse movie of the same name, went indoors to get cheese while David provided water from a hose. The mouse was obviously domesticated.

Then we all returned to what we had been doing. A little later, I checked on Stu, who was cozily nestled in thick grass and was sound asleep.

The family—all of whom have cats as pets—discussed what to do, especially since we have a neighborhood hawk that would have surely enjoyed catching Stu as dinner.

During a prayerful plea for wisdom, the word PETCO suddenly came to mind. I knew the pet store’s nearest location, but it wasn’t where we usually shopped for cat supplies.

I called the store, looking for advice. Employee Michelle Coy said, “Bring him in.” Then she explained that she knew people who might give Stu a good home.

So, with an ice pick, I poked countless air holes into a box so that Diane and my grandson’s girlfriend, Emmeline—who had graduated from Purdue University the day before—and I could deliver Stu to his safe haven.

Later, I called Michelle Coy to check on him. Actually, when I signed papers giving PETCO custody, I spelled his name “Stewart” because I felt he needed his own identity. Stew/Stu was doing well, she said, and later was found a good home.

I contacted the company’s national headquarters to report how pleased we are that the mouse was saved in such a joyful and humane manner. Of course, then we also became PETCO customers.

Now, what has this to do with Catholic-Christian principles? Everything! Christ taught love and compassion—and neither has boundaries. A Christian song says, “Whatsoever we do to the least of our brethren …”

Like St. Francis of Assisi, who taught that animals are our brethren, too, I believe in most circumstances that respecting, protecting and saving any of God’s creatures is an important, often necessary extension of Christ’s love.

Once, in a poem I wrote, I reflected that God first created beasts and birds before the soul of man was stirred.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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