How can we live in sacred relationship with the more-than-human world?
Confession: I’ve always been more interested in Rudolph than in his two-legged companion. I picture his little hoofs lifting off the cold snow, his mind nervous—but full of purpose—as he courageously becomes his shiny-red-nosed true self.
Of course, the original Saint Nicholas didn’t have reindeer, what with him living in the Mediterranean and reindeer being native to the Arctic. No, the Greek bishop from whom our modern Santa evolved would have been more likely to ride a sleigh pulled by goats.
MEET THE MYSTICS
Beyond reindeer, stories of connections between animals and mystical saints abound. Sometimes, creatures help humans, like in the case of England’s Saint Cuthbert. As he exited a cleansing pre-prayer dip in the sea, otters followed to warm Cuthbert’s feet with their breath and dry him with their fur.
Sufi mystic Rumi used animals as metaphors for a relationship with divinity: “Be like the cat, so alive after the mouse, never wondering or questioning why, when there is really only God … touching our paws.”
Other zoological anecdotes reveal heartwarming moments of human compassion. Saint …