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Creature Comforts – How God has Accompanied Me Through His Animals

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Editor’s Note: DC Service Corps volunteer Joanie McMahon reflects on the Franciscan perspective that encourages her to stop and look for signs of God in all life and through his creatures. 

As my year in DC Service Corps draws to a close, I have been reflecting on God’s presence throughout the ebbs and flows of my time in the Casa. Just as I have been called to accompany my neighbors this year with FMS, I too have been accompanied by my community members, FMS staff, and countless other friends and neighbors in DC. It is the Franciscan way to see God in the Good and Beautiful, and I have certainly experienced the Divine in this way! This year in particular, I have been constantly reminded of God through the witness of his creatures. This earth is teeming with life, even in the city, and I would like to acknowledge the good and beautiful creatures who have pointed me towards the Divine this year:     


My first full day in the Casa was a Sunday, and I was too shy to ask my new community members to go to Mass with me. After Mass, I found these koi fish swimming around a pond in the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. They seemed so content with each other, and they swam with familiarity around their small space. I took comfort in their confidence, and I looked forward to the day when our community would be content and familiar with one another.

The first of many cats I met this year was Nina, a friendly ginger tabby who approached me on my walk to work. Nina calmed my nerves and reassured me that God would see me through my first day in the FMS office.

I found this turtle shell while camping with some of my community members in October. It floated down a stream towards me while I was reflecting on my own. I held it for a while and thought about the life it used to hold. I was struck by how beautiful even the remnants of a life could be, and how, one day, God will call me to leave my body behind. 

This is Spook, a timid, gentle cat who lives in the Casa’s neighborhood. Spook has beautiful coloring and large, soulful eyes. If I were to describe Spook in one word, it would be “lovely.” I have seen Spook almost every day this past year, and each time I see her, I am reminded of how God created some life to be lovely and gentle, and delights in our appreciation of it.

This squirrel visited the tree outside our window in the FMS office frequently throughout the year. He didn’t seem bothered by the big people on the other side of the glass, and he always busied himself with finding food wherever he could. He reminded me not to be intimidated by the world around me, but to go about my work with confidence and joy.

During the cold months, when my energy and enthusiasm was often low, I was grateful whenever Liz Hughes, Executive Director of FMS, would bring in her golden retriever. Flurry was named after the first snow of the year and the joy that it brings, and she certainly lives up to her name! This picture was taken when Flurry was so excited to be visiting the office that she couldn’t stop spinning in circles between Emily and I. Flurry always brought joy to the office and reminded me of Daniel 3:81, which calls all creation to “Praise and exalt Him above all forever.”

Last, but certainly not least, is my friend Little One. I would pass by her house every day on my walk to the FMS office, but she would not budge from her position on the porch when I called her. However, after weeks of coaxing and offering treats, Little One slowly started to open up to me. At first, she would only approach me for the treats, but in October, she started watching for me on the sidewalk every day and accepting pets. My relationship with Little One brought about a friendship with her owner, Kevin, who takes care of the stray cats in our neighborhood (including Spook!). Now, thanks to Little One, I have a wonderful friend in Kevin and countless other cats to pet on a daily basis. On my walks to and from work and the metro, Kevin, Little One, and the other cats have accompanied me with enthusiasm and friendship. I have considered them part of my community during my year with FMS, and it will be difficult for me to say goodbye to them in July. 

Through these animals, I have felt the presence of the Divine pulling me towards his good and beautiful kingdom. I am so grateful for the life I have witnessed on a daily basis, and the Franciscan perspective that encourages me to stop and look for signs of God in all life. 

“All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.” -Daniel, 3:81

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Originally from Bethlehem, New York, Joanie McMahon recently graduated with a degree in studio art from the Catholic University of America. In her free time, Joanie enjoys painting, spending time with her nieces and nephews, and working with farm animals. Joanie is looking forward to building meaningful relationships with her Casa housemates and supporting lay missioners during their Formation program.