Those readers present at the Porpoise-Otter wedding a few months ago know that we’re probably the only couple in the world who chose the story of Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22:22-35) as one of our ceremony readings. Why? Well, it’s always been one of my favorite Bible stories (it has a talking donkey—what more could you ask?), and Porpoise thought it might at least be entertaining for friends and family who aren’t so familiar with the Bible. And it sure gave people something to talk about at the reception.
Then, of course, there’s Jesus choosing a donkey for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That, combined with the fact that the donkey is the symbol of the Democratic Party, must mean that Democrats are God’s favorites. (Okay, okay, sorry to readers who don’t share my political views—I just get a bit snarky with rhetoric implying that Republicans are somehow more Christian than Democrats. In truth, I side with Jim Wallis’s “God Is Not a Republican or a Democrat”–though I certainly have my own preferences!)
Back to my main subject, which is the adorableness of donkeys.
As far as hagiographic accounts of donkeys, St. Francis refers to his own body as “Brother Ass”: something to be fenced in occasionally, but also something to be cared for and loved (which Francis didn’t always do that well; on his deathbed, he apologized to “Brother Ass” for mistreating him). If you think of the respect St. Francis had for animals, that’s no insult.
My new favorite donkey-and-saint story doesn’t have much to do with the donkey itself, but I love it anyway. It’s about Teresa of Ávila, and I found it recounted in Dorothy Day’s spiritual autobiography The Long Loneliness:
“Once when she [Teresa] was traveling from one part of Spain to another with some other nuns and a priest to start a convent, and their way took them over a stream, she was thrown from her donkey. The story goes that the Lord said to her, ‘That is how I treat my friends.’ And she replied, ‘And that is why you have so few of them.’”
To paraphrase Animal of The Muppets, “That my kind of saint.” She knew God well enough to sass him and serve him—perhaps rather like a donkey.
Add comment May 10th, 2006