Shall we be less grateful to God than wild beasts without even the light of reason are to us?

March 1, 2022 • 5 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 39
By Venerable Louis of Granada

Since, then, every creature is a benefit from God, how can we live surrounded by these proofs of His love, and yet never think of Him?

If wearied and hungry you seated yourself at the foot of a tower, and a beneficent creature from above sent you food and refreshment, could you forbear raising your eyes to your kind benefactor? Yet God continually sends down upon you blessings of every kind.

Find me, I pray you, but one thing which does not come from God, which does not happen by His special Providence. Why is it, then, that you never raise your eyes to this indefatigable and generous Benefactor?

Ah! we have divested ourselves of our own nature, so to speak, and have fallen into worse than brute insensibility. I blush, in truth, to say what we resemble in this particular, but it is good for man to hear it.

We are like a herd of swine feeding under an oak. While their keeper is showering down acorns, they greedily devour them, grunting and quarrelling with one another, yet never raising their eyes to the master who is feeding them.

Oh! brute-like ingratitude of the children of Adam! We have received the light of reason, and an upright form. Our head is directed to heaven, not to earth, which ought to teach us to raise the eyes of our soul to the abode of our Benefactor.

Would that irrational creatures did not excel us in this duty! But the law of gratitude, so dear to God, is so deeply impressed on all creatures that we find this noble sentiment even in the most savage beasts.

What nature is more savage than that of a lion? Yet Appian, a Greek author, tells us that a certain man took refuge in a cave, where he extracted a thorn from the foot of a lion. Grateful for the kindness, the noble animal ever after shared bis prey with his benefactor while he remained in the cave. Some years later this man, having been charged with a crime, was condemned to be exposed to wild beasts in the amphitheatre. When the time of execution arrived, a lion which had been lately captured was let loose on the prisoner. Instead of tearing his victim to pieces he gazed at him intently, and, recognizing his former benefactor, he gave evident signs of joy, leaping and fawning upon him as a dog would upon his master. Moved by this spectacle, the judges, on hearing his story, released both man and lion. Forgetful of his former wildness, the lion, until his death, continued to follow his master through the streets of Rome without offering the slightest injury to any one.

A like instance of gratitude is related of another lion that was strangling in the coils of a serpent when a gentleman riding by came to his rescue and killed the serpent. The grateful animal, to show his devotion, took up his abode with his deliverer and followed him wherever he went, like a faithful dog. One day the gentleman set sail, leaving the lion behind him on the shore. Impatient to be with his master, the faithful animal plunged into the sea, and, being unable to reach the vessel, was drowned.

What instances could we not relate of the fidelity and gratitude of the horse? Pliny, in his “Natural History,” [viii. 40.] tells us that horses have been seen to shed tears at the death of their masters, and even to starve themselves to death for the same reason.

Nor are the gratitude and fidelity of dogs less surprising. Of these the same author relates most marvellous things. He gives, among other examples, an instance which occurred in his own time at Rome. A man condemned to death was allowed in prison the companionship of his dog. The faithful animal never left him, and even after death remained by the lifeless body to testify his grief. If food were given to him he immediately brought it to his master and laid it on his lifeless lips. Finally, when the remains were thrown into the Tiber, he plunged into the river, and, having placed himself beneath the body, struggled till the last to keep it from sinking.

Could there be gratitude greater than this? Now, if beasts, with no other guide than natural instinct, thus show their love and gratitude for their masters, how can man, possessing the superior guidance of reason, live in such forgetfulness of his Benefactor? Will he suffer the brute creation to give him lessons in fidelity, gratitude, and kindness?

Moreover, will he forget that the benefits he receives from God are incomparably superior to those which animals receive from men; that his Benefactor is so infinite in His excellence, so disinterested in His love, overwhelming His creatures with blessings which can in no way benefit Himself?

This must ever be a subject of wonder and astonishment, and evidently proves that there are evil spirits who darken our understanding, weaken our memory, and harden our heart, in order to make us forget so bountiful a Benefactor.

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