One summer a bear came to Seraphim’s hut at Zagorsk monastery, and rather than chase it away he shared his rations half-and-half. As winter drew on the bear continued to visit instead of hibernating (one good reason not to follow Seraphim’s example!). When Lent came, the monks rations were halved, so Seraphim simply gave the bear all his food. The Igumen (Abbot) heard of this and reproached him: “You are not supposed to starve yourself in Lent!” Seraphim replied, “The beast could not understand about fasting.” Seraphim’s bear represents all who don’t understand.
Seraphim and three other saints portrayed with animals— Frances of Assisi, Lady Godiva, and Sadi—remind us that God’s work of creation extends to all creatures, and that some have known God in companionship with animals or through imaginative and compassionate reflection on the stories of animals.