When we took our rabbits out to show the Sisters, word spread. Suddenly, families with children, teens, adults, and seniors all came over to see them. As they pet the rabbits or held them, genuinely warm human encounters took place.
Though getting another pet wasn't particularly my idea, it sounded good to me. The truth is, I can't imagine it ever sounding otherwise. My kids know that I'm a complete sucker for animals and always have been. Over the course of my life, I've had dogs, cats, gerbils, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, parakeet, canaries, finches, chameleons, anoli lizards, tropical fish, crayfish, ant farms, and sea monkeys (remember them?). I still recall how unfair I thought it was when my mom said no to my request for a flying squirrel. (Some parents are so unreasonable!) That's probably why no one was surprised by the recent addition of three rabbits to our household: one for me and each of our two youngest daughters.
Of course, I issued the you-have-to-promise-to-take-care-of-it decree, and decided to use our usual outing to the Topsfield Fair to find out everything that would be involved. But beyond all that, I saw that keeping bunnies could be a real opportunity for the three of us to spend time every day doing something together. Quality girl time.
We connected with local breeders, took a trip up to the county coop for supplies, and brought our two Holland lops and lionhead bunnies home about a month ago. After spending a week bonding them, we moved Hermione, Penelope, and Aslana into their outdoor, very comfortable, Craigslist hutch, which I refer to as our "bunny convent."
I expected that fluffy bunnies would be cute, and they certainly are. What I didn't expect was just how much personality each little rabbit has, and how delightful it is to watch them interact with each other. But far and away the most unanticipated thing about our new pets is the response they -- and we -- got when we took them out and around.
A few Sundays ago, the Daughters of St. Paul were providing an exhibit at the largest parish in our town. Several of the sisters I work with had heard about the bunnies and seen the photo of what our son called a "fluff puddle." I figured it was a good opportunity for a show and tell. So the three of us packed up our rabbits and took them over to the foyer just as the last morning Mass was ending.
When we took our rabbits out to show the Sisters, word spread. Suddenly, families with children, teens, adults, and seniors all came over to see them. As they pet the rabbits or held them, genuinely warm human encounters took place. We talked with people we had never met before, and reconnected with old friends from the parish. Our conversations included stories of remembered childhood pets, squeals of excitement, questions about the bunnies' age or breeds. Those topics led to talk about families, prayer requests, and parish life. We were there for nearly an hour and a half!
This past Sunday we took our bunnies over to the parish I used to work at as the family Mass was concluding. Again, people were drawn to them, and into conversations with us. The monthly reception in the parish hall enabled more interaction -- and more smiles. "See, her eyes are blue, like yours!" "Can I hold the tan fluffy one?" "We used to have rabbits when I was a kid." Today I got an email from a parish friend telling me that she heard a little boy talking with his mother. "Mom! This is awesome! Our church has a petting zoo!"
Parish petting zoos may be taking it just a bit too far. But I think that "fluffy bunnies" have a place in the new evangelization. I'm not suggesting that everyone bring their pets to Mass. What I am advocating, however, is that each and every one of us openly and freely shares whatever our "fluffy bunny" is with others. By "fluffy bunny" I mean anything that draws people into genuine encounters, something non-threatening that disarms us and brings us joy, a simple thing that fosters an opportunity to share our lives--and our faith--with others. If St. Francis of Assisi really did say, "Evangelize, evangelize, and if you must, use words," he may well have been thinking of how effective a silent, soft, gentle, warm and fluffy bunny can be.
JAYMIE STUART WOLFE IS A WIFE AND MOTHER OF EIGHT CHILDREN, AND A DISCIPLE OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES. SHE IS AN INSPIRATIONAL AUTHOR, SPEAKER, MUSICIAN AND SERVES AS AN ASSOCIATE CHILDREN'S EDITOR AT PAULINE BOOKS AND MEDIA.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.