Blessing of Animals
The Blessing of Animals
This tradition has been around for a long time, and is associated with St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of animals. Francis recognized the "divine spark" in the beauty of creation, and he loved the companionship of animals. He was a 13th century Italian monk who led a simple life, surrounded by nature and the natural world. St. Francis' Feast Day is October 4th, and so the Blessing of the Animals usually takes place around that time.
Generally, a simple service is held on the front lawn of St. Peter's Church. The service itself will be brief and informal with a reading from Scripture, prayer, and then an invitation for people to bring their pets forward for a blessing. Bring along pets of all shapes and sizes - cats, dogs, reptiles, fish - even a picture of a pet who cannot be there.
The service can also be incorporated into the Sunday service, and pets are brought forward to be blessed.
St. Francis of Assisi 1181-1226
Patron Saint of Animals and Ecology
Francis was born into a rich cloth merchant family in the town of Assisi Italy in the year 1181. After leading an indulgent life of partying with his friends, Francis yearned for a deeper meaning to life. One day when he was passing by a ruined chapel he heard the voice of Christ say, “Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” Francis took the call literally and started to repair the fallen down church building. Led by the Holy Spirit, Francis realized that the call to rebuild Christ’s church was not some small renovations to a country chapel. Christ’s call had a far deeper meaning. What Christ was actually calling Francis to do was to repair the Church by renewing a vision of what it means to be the presence of Christ in the world by living a life of humble, simple, loving service to all.
Francis responded to Christ’s call. He gave up his comfortable lifestyle and entered into a new life to share the hardships of the poor and to serve the outcast of his society. Gathering a small group of men around him, Francis founded a religious order called the Friars Minor or The Little (i.e. humble) Brothers. The Friars were to model their lives on Jesus and the apostles; to own nothing, share all things in common, and to go out into the world to share the good news of Christ in word and action. St. Francis is said to have told his friars, “Go out into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. Use words if necessary.” Later, with St. Clare of Assisi he co-founded an order for woman called the “Poor Ladies” or “The Poor Clares” after their Mother Founder.
Francis created the first manger scene to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas. Later in his life he received the “stigmata” or the wounds of Christ on his hands, feet and side as a sign of a life profoundly in union with Christ.
Today the Franciscan Order of friars and nuns remains one of the most dynamic religious orders in the Church whose members include men and women of the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches. Disregarding the powers of his day, Francis was an outspoken advocate for the neglected and downtrodden. His social activism and his profound love of animals and the beauty of God’s creation give him a striking modern quality as we struggle with issues of poverty, injustice and protecting our environment in our own times.
Francis died in the early hours of October 3rd, 1226. His feast day is celebrated in the Church on October 4th.
By Dean Rose
Permission is granted to use and replicate this or parts of this article with the following ascription;
From an article by Dean Rose, St. Peter’s Church, Oshawa, Diocese of Toronto.
For more information about St. Francis please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi