October brings us one of the most beautiful pet lovers’ traditions: the blessing of the animals.
This is when churches open their courtyards, lawns, and sometimes even their sanctuaries to pets and their owners. Typically, a church leader of some kind blesses all the animals present, often with these words:
The animals of God’s creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea. They share in the ways of human beings. They have a part in our lives. Francis of Assisi recognized this when he called the animals, wild and tame, his brothers and sisters. Remembering Francis’ love for these brothers and sisters of ours, we invoke God’s blessing on these animals, and we thank God for letting us share the earth with all the creatures.
These ceremonies tend to be blessedly short as many beloved companions have imperfect bladder control.
The blessing of the animals is inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi who loved animals of all kinds and considered them his brothers and sisters.
Christianity, it should be noted, is not always so kind to animals. Many people construe the pages of the Bible to give humans absolute “dominion” over the animals.
Some Christians take this to mean that animals have no rights and can be slaughtered, exploited, and mistreated indiscriminately.
It depends on what you want to take away from your faith. Some people take kindness to be the most important message of Christianity, in which case that kindness must be extended to all living things.
Franciscan Kevin E. Mackin writes, “The love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, can draw us more deeply into the larger circle of life, into the wonder of our common relationship to our Creator.”
Though the blessing of the animals originated in Catholic churches, its appeal is so broad that other denominations have gotten in on the act.
In Louisville, Kentucky, for instance, the local Unitarians (a lovely, god optional belief system) are holding a ceremony on October 3.