Although the Sunday liturgy takes precedence over the feast days of saints, today is, nonetheless, the date on which the church normally observes the feast of St. Francis. Typically, we see St. Francis depicted with birds or other animals gathered around him, and some churches observe this day by blessing animals used as pets or in service.
One of my favorite quotes is attributed to St. Francis, and it is the inspiration for how we should try to live our lives. "Preach the Gospel often and everywhere; when necessary, use words." This is a succinct way of telling us to let our actions speak louder than our words. We can pay all manner of lip service to the precepts of the Gospel, but we are defined not by what we say but by what we do. St. Francis embraced poverty, not only of body but of spirit as well. He assumed the lowest position in society in imitation of Christ, who "humbled Himself to share in our humanity so that we might one day share in His Divinity". Although renowned for his preaching, St. Francis' humility prevented him from seeking ordaination to the priesthood, hence the name Franciscan Minors. At the end of his life, he suffered from blindness and the wounds of the Stigmata, which he received on the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross.
So, while we present our precious little pets for a special blessing today, let us also ask St. Francis to assist us in imitating him so that we, too, might imitate Christ, who was born into the world in abject poverty and remains with us in the guise of bread and wine.