A Blessing of Animals event will take place at Hillside Dog Park on Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Blessing of animals is an old custom, reportedly started by St. Francis of Assisi. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, loved the larks flying about his hilltop town. He and his early brothers, staying in a small hovel, allowed themselves to be displaced by a donkey.
‘Franciscanmedia’ also tells us that Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things: “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”
For single householders, a pet can be a true companion. Many people arrive home from work to find a furry friend overjoyed at their return. Many a senior has a lap filled with a purring fellow creature. The bond between person and pet is like no other relationship, because the communication between fellow creatures is at its most basic. Eye-to-eye, a person with a dog or cat become two creatures of love.
Many churches offer this blessing as a part of services the first weekend in October. It is unusual to have pets in church, but the smiles are so special. The people really enjoy this service. From the Huffington Post, one reads that St. Francis is the most popular Catholic saint in the world. He is the one who preached to the birds; blessed fish that had been caught, releasing them back into the water; communicated with wolves, brokering an agreement between one famous ferocious wolf and the citizens of a town that were terrified of it, and used real animals when he created the very first, live, Christmas nativity scene. As a result of these, Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
Also, at this time of year, many Jewish congregations schedule blessings of the animals after the High Holy Days, centering their ceremonies around the second weekly Torah portion of the Jewish Year cycle: Parashat Noach, the portion about Noah and the ark. Way back then, God promised never to destroy the earth again — and both humans and animals were understandably joyful. On this occasion, animals are blessed as creatures, reminding humans how we share that essential quality with our pets.
In both the Christian ceremony performed in early October and in Jewish ceremonies later in the month, the message to those of us with animal companions is the same: take care of them as you would take care of yourself. Show gratitude; they are gifts from God, according to Jay Sweeney at Huffington Post.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has an alternative view on animal blessing events, and proffers the following points: cats are terrified and should be left at home. The blessing is for the animals, so do not sacrifice the animals’ welfare for the ceremony. Bring a picture of the cat, or ask the minister/priest to come to your home.
Many animals, all created by God, miss out on the blessing, and are mutilated and abused for our sake. PETA states the St. Francis would be appalled by the degree of suffering that we inflict on animals to indulge our acquired taste for their flesh. And remember all the fish of the sea who have to navigate many polluted areas of our lakes and oceans.
On Oct. 6, please bring a donation of dog food for Griffin Pond Animal Shelter. There will be shelter dogs on site to visit with.
This blessing is provided by members of the Abington Ecumenical Ministerium, a consortium of pastors in this area who gather monthly to pray for the community, plan events, and enjoy fellowship together.
We hope you enjoy this blessing as much as your pet does.