By Sharon Callahan

     The quality of Mercy is not strained,
It dropeth as a gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.
It is twice blessed,
it blesseth him that gives and him that takes . .
Shakespeare

Mercy: compassion or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender.

     Every species of animal carries within its collective consciousness the memory of centuries of abuse at the hands of cruel and insensitive human beings. In light of this, animals are called to great courage each time they incarnate. Still they come, and come again pouring mercy upon mercy on us unless, of course, we wipe their kind from the face of the earth completely, as we have so many. Except when individual animals have been so badly damaged by interface with humanity they cannot cope at all, they generate love moment to moment, again and again.

     Because animals are intimately attuned to the collective consciousness of the species of which they are a part and to which they refer for information, they are often overcome by fear the intensity of which we cannot begin to fathom. Through ego identification man has dulled himself to conscious identification with the collective mind of his own species, consequently he does not suffer in the way that the other animals do. The Holocaust of the animals has been ongoing since man decided that he had dominion over them, adding horror upon horror to the animal collective memory. Even animals who are well loved and cared for, are often overshadowed by fear contained within the collective consciousness of their species and can be swept away by intense waves of fear and anxiety.

     One has only to think of the fate of most rabbits in our society to imagine the terror that must have arisen in the heart of the little rabbit pictured above when it was first brought into a nursing home. The medicinal smell, the bright lights, the atmosphere of loneliness and despair, the smell of approaching death, the hurried pace of the aides and nurses all these bear a striking resemblance both visually and vibrationally to a laboratory or research setting. Every little rabbit "knows" the suffering inflicted on its kind in such places, whether or not it has suffered such experience on a personal level. Still, their little hearts remain open and willing to try love again. This little rabbit overcame her fear, offering her sweet little body to be kissed, caressed and held, all the while remaining still and pouring the love of God through her heart to those in need of her tender ministrations. She is part of a program to bring animals into nursing homes, schools and hospitals. She has touched the hearts of many children, adults and elderly people with her kind eyes, her tolerance and her open heart. Many elderly people who have been starved for human touch by a society that worships youth have been lifted out of despair by this little rabbit and other animals like her.

     Programs that take animals into schools and institutions offer an arena for the redemption of the animal/human relationship. The animals are allowed a setting in which they can overcome their fear and be honored for their true gifts, the gifts of unconditional love, hope and mercy. Elderly people in particular are offered an opportunity to make up for unresolved feelings of betrayal, abandonment and rejection. A man or woman who might have been unloving to their own mates and children and who are not able to redeem those relationships directly are offered a surrogate healing partner.

     One woman in the nursing home had not spoken for years, except to shout profanities and non-sensical utterances. She often had to be restrained to prevent her from hurting herself or others. Once a month a group of young people would arrive with a wonderful array of animals to be held and loved and who gave love in return. The woman was given a tiny black kitten to hold. Everyone watched in amazement as she tenderly stroked its fur and whispered to it lovingly. The little kitten purred in response to the woman's touch and kind words and the woman felt honored and received. It was a mutual giving and receiving of love, and a healing took place. Each was honored; each was redeemed.

     A man who was suddenly stricken ill and blind after a healthy athletic life, was at first resentful that he had to rely on the assistance of a guide dog. He released his resentment little by little as he realized that the dog's unconditional love for him surpassed anything he had experienced in his life. The dog understood his frailty and accepted his resentment, responding to him in the most tender and loving ways, lying by his bedside for hours at a time. Occasionally when the man would become restless the dog would raise its head and lick the man's hand. On one occasion when the man felt weak while trying to get out of bed, the dog gently brought him his slippers and lay them one at a time at his feet; something he had never done before. The man's life was redeemed by the love of this dog. Over time the dog's ministrations were deeply cherished by the man, and the dog was honored as well.

     Guide dogs, animals trained to assist the hearing impaired and handicapped, animals that are trained to go into schools, nursing homes and hospitals, and search and rescue dogs are all referred to as service animals because we humans feel that we have trained them to perform a particular function. The word service means an act of helpful activity. The truth of the matter is that all animals perform tremendous acts of service whether or not we label their activity as such. Companion animals, and wild animals too, simply by virtue of their presence in our lives and in the world, serve to uplift our spirit and draw us closer to an experience of the divine.

     Every creature comes to serve in its own capacity. The animals remember this; many human beings have forgotten. St. Francis of Assisi said: "Be conscious, O man, of the wondrous state in which God placed you, for he created you and formed you to the image of his beloved Son - and yet all the creatures under heaven, each according to its nature, serve, know, and obey their creator better than you."

     In this new age of consciousness we are being called to examine how we arrived at the present state of Holocaust against the animals and to do our part in healing our relationship with them. Dr. Michael Fox, Veterinarian and Vice President of the Humane Society of the United States, says: "It is not a question of us drawing some arbitrary line as to which creatures and to what extent we should exploit them. Rather, we should draw a circle, a boundless circle of compassion to include all creatures and Creation within the scope of our respect and reverence. By so doing, we enrich the significance of our own lives and enhance our own spiritual development."

     Animals are a healing ministry upon the Earth. They are children of God just as we are, Emissaries of Light and Love helping to facilitate the blossoming of the One Consciousness of which we and they are a part. They do this job magnificently and with tremendous courage. Animals can, if we allow them to, bring us out of the past into present time. If we meet them in present time, and honor their true gifts to us, our relationship with them can be redeemed. The time for atonement has come, at-one-ment. When we feel our oneness with all living things the past is healed. In a state of present awareness and oneness, we are brought into alignment with the continuous outpouring of the Divine Essence of God, which is Love, and we are healed - for healing in the true sense is the lifting of the Spirit into Grace.

     Each of us can be a part of the healing of humanity's relationship with animals. Every time we feel an outpouring of love for an animal, or perform some small kindness toward them, we can offer up that love and kindness to the spirit of all animals. When we catch a glimpse of a beautiful wild creature, we can take time to thank it for its magnificence and for gracing our life in that moment. Our thanks will be received by the animal and our love transmitted to all others of its species and the entire over-soul of animals as well. Each day we can offer deep appreciation to our own animal companions for their presence in our lives. When we pray, meditate, or say grace before a meal we can include the animals. We need not demean animals by pitying them, for pity is borne of fear. Rather let us have compassion; let us feel the pain of the animals. Dr. Fox says that it makes him angry when people talk about blessing animals. He says "the animals don't need our blessing. We need their blessing!" So let us ask for the blessing of the animals, their forgiveness and their mercy. In this way we will bring light to the darkness and suffering of which we have been a part, - and we will begin to dissolve all obstacles to the shimmering presence of Love that is the true identity of every being.

     It is said that the beating of a butterfly's wing is felt by the farthest star. All things are connected. With each act of kindness, with each loving thought, with each prayer, the entire world is lifted closer to a state of grace for all beings.

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