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Prayers, Veganism

Animals and Catholicism

Last night I was browsing through some online resources looking for prayers and I came across this:

Prayer of St. Basil of Caesarea
Deeper Sense of Fellowship With All Living Things

O God, grant us a deeper sense of fellowship with all living things,
our little brothers and sisters
to whom in common with us
you have given this earth as home.
We recall with regret that in the past
we have acted high-handedly and cruelly
in exercising our domain over them.
Thus, the voice of the earth
which should have risen to you in song
has turned into a groan of travail.
May we realize that all these creatures
also live for themselves and for you,
not for us alone.
They too love the goodness of life,
as we do, and serve you better
in their way than we do in ours.


Wow! Isn’t that beautiful? As a vegan, I was blown away by finding this. I had to know more about this St. Basil! A quick trip to his Wikipedia page didn’t reveal anything to do with the earth, animals, good stewardship, etc. like I was expecting, so I hit the blogosphere, and thank goodness I did.

As it turns out this prayer is rather astonishingly not St. Basil’s at all. In a nutshell, this prayer did not emerge until 1910 and came from a Baptist theologian, Walter Rauschenbusch. Through a series of bad referencing amongst authors, it somehow came to be accepted that this prayer was indeed from St. Basil. Intriguing, no?

Not to fret though, I have discovered an incredible blogger, Philip Johnson, who writes Animals Matter to God. He is the one who really delved into the St. Basil prayer in a seven-part series. I have also discovered the full prayer composed by Rauschenbusch and many of his other prayers, which I quite like.

In the meantime, I think I’ll be sticking with the prayer above as the full prayer is rather lengthy! Philip Johnson has also given me some book recommendations on the subject of theology and animals, so I will be delving into those this summer and sharing my thoughts.




6 thoughts on “Animals and Catholicism

  1. Hi Amy, I tried to respond twice to this post as I am a vegan too, and interested in your topic about animals…did you see them at all or did I perhaps make a technical mistake when posting them?

    Posted by prayers4reparation | June 3, 2012, 11:18 am
    • Hi there!

      Sorry, but no comments came through on this post except this one! Would you mind re-posting?

      I’m hoping to cover veganism & environmentalism quite a bit as I see a an overwhelming emphasis in the Catholic media and blogosphere on abortion, marriage, etc. That’s not to say that those are not important issues, but just that there are more ways to honor life than just being pro-life.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted by Amy | June 3, 2012, 11:31 am
      • Never heard that Rauschenbusch wrote this prayer; according to the CTS (they are usually very thorough in their research) the prayer runs like this: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom thou hast given the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realise that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they have the sweetness of life.” This prayer is still used in the Russian liturgy and is by St Basil the Great (c.330-379); St Basil wrote also other liturgical prayers, another one speaks of God having saved both human and beast, “We pray thee, O Lord, for the humble beasts…and for the wild animals, whom thou hast made, strong and beautiful; we supplicate for them thy great tenderness of heart, for thou hast promised to save both man and beast…” – This excerpt is from the booklet “Concern for Animals” by the Catholic Truth Society…maybe when you go to Mass next you could pick the booklet up as there is a CTS bookshop just next to Westminster Cathedral (there are two bookshops, actually, on your right when you approach, St Paul’s and the CTS bookshop), and the booklet is good value, it costs only 1,95 🙂

        Posted by prayers4reparation | June 3, 2012, 3:28 pm
  2. Is there a reference to where the Catholic Truth Society has copied the prayer from? If St. Basil did write the prayer then surely it should actually appear in some writing of his, not just merely subsequent sources, no?

    There are no references to this prayer anytime before the early 1900s, so if it was written by St. Basil during his life, why does it not appear ANYWHERE prior to the 20th century?

    I would encourage you to check out Philip Johnson’s excellent 7-part series which actually attempts to track down the primary source for the prayer I mentioned and also the one you included. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on his quest. He argues:

    “As I have stated in previous posts, too many authors have been engaged in a circular process of cross-quoting each other for the texts of the prayers and failed to check if the prayers are in any primary sources. This rather dubious and very lazy habit reflects poor information-retrieval work. It is a problem abounding in mass-market publications, academic books and journals, and has also gone unchecked by examiners of doctoral dissertations.The net effect is that a literary house of cards has been erected because nobody has bothered to check the claims about the authenticity of both prayers by reading the known works of St. Basil and checking the various versions of the Liturgy of St Basil.”

    And yes, I will definitely be stopping by those shops. When I got out of Mass last night they were already closed and I was disappointed as I was hoping to have a peek around!


    Posted by Amy | June 3, 2012, 4:47 pm


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