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Oct
10

Blessing of the Animals

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Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. – Anatole France

A warm Sunday in October at the beginning of Autumn. There is a cool breeze languidly blowing the fallen leaves in the church yard and surrounding woods. We are among the first to arrive with our little cocker spaniel Ginger in tow,  for the Blessing of the Animals – an annual event at our church held on the first Sunday in October around the feast of St. Francis of Assissi.

This is a much loved and eagerly attended event held in his memory – where pet owners of all ages, little children and the elderly , young teens and all ages in between bring their beloved pets to church to be blessed. I recall  announcing to my parents, as I am sure many children do,  that if there was no place in heaven for my dog, then I most emphatically did not want to go to heaven!

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of animals and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me . – Mark Twain, Letters to the Earth.

Well it was heartwarming to find a church in a bustling metropolis that celebrates the loving presence of animals in our lives and reassures all who care, that God not only created these creatures with love, but that they are worthy to be blessed and that we are all going to the same place in the after life.

In the gardens in front of the church, where we gathered, the fountain still flowed and the gold fish still frolicked in the pond. Soon they will be taken to live inside to weather the cold snowy winters, but for now they were present for the animal party. Little dogs, large dogs of every shape and size, cats, hamsters, birds, pet iguanas – slowly they arrived with their owners.  They stopped to sniff and stare and occasionally stopped to lift a leg at the well tended flower beds, but for the most part they were wonderfully well behaved.

Ginger was curious to discover what was going on and twitched her nose in friendly welcome of others of her own kind and other four footed, finned and feathered kind.  Her little tufty tail wagged furiously and her bright eyes sparkled with excitement as she watched, perplexed, as more and more animals filled the little courtyard.

All of the animals except for man know that the principle business of life is to enjoy it. – Samuel Butler

Strangely enough, despite the odd mix of animals, there was no excited barking , straining at the leashes or antagonistic hissing, spitting or miaowing – just the civilized late afternoon chatter of pet owners. It was as though years of worship had imbued the surroundings with a certain solemnity that calmed the animals. They seemed possessed of a gentle instinct that something awesome was about to happen and seemed to be trembling with eager anticipation of it.

At our Franciscan Church, our brown robed friars were out and about warmly welcoming and petting the four footed congregation, much like St. Francis used to do in his day. To those of us who are bonded in love to our fellow creature companions, this is an occasion worthy of celebration!

We started with a  solemn prayer of blessing, very similar to the one ST. Francis might have said to his furry friends.

Blessed are you, Lord God, Maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters.We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your  beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creation. Amen.

Each pet is then blessed and sprinkled with holy water, they blink a little at the gentle splash of holy water tenderly administered, but  remain in dignity, silently accepting the blessing. 

 I am not sure whether they are aware of what the significance of the sacramental spritz is, but their owners certainly are, and perhaps it is communicated to their pets. Perhaps we go to the Blessing of Animals, to be blessed ourselves! Or maybe we seek the blessing of living with animals to remind us of God’s love for us.

The difference between friends and pets is that Friends we allow into our company, pets we allow into our solitude. – Robert Brault.

The innocent love  we share with our pet animals and the unconditional reciprocity of  loyal affection that is bestowed on us is a blessing in itself and is a glimpse of how we were all intended to live together. In harmony and caring for each other – human and animal- in a celebration of life together in this shared space of time on earth.

A dog is the only creature on earth who will love you more than you love yourself. – Josh Billings

How has your life been blessed by sharing your life with an animal friend?

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Categories : Personal Stories

Comments

  1. Robyn Sinclair says:

    What a delightful day shared by all, it appears. Thanks for sharing it with us Joyce.

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