Blessing of the Animals Honors the Earth’s Creatures
This past week was a special holiday for Earth’s creatures. On October 4, parishes around the country and the world celebrated the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi with the annual blessing of the animals. This feast day celebrates the legacy of St. Francis, and is a wonderful time in autumn to bless your pet at church. It is for all creatures, from cats and dogs, to camels and horses, to honor their place in the world.
The Patron Saint of Animals
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
The patron saint of animals and ecology, St. Francis of Assisi, is one of the most popular Catholic saints. He gave up his wealth and high-spirited lifestyle to answer a calling from God and preach about the interconnection between nature and all its inhabitants. In his prayer, Canticle of the Creatures, he praised God for the stars, Earth, and all of creation. He prayed in the woods, and encouraged others to be gentle in their ways.
St. Francis believed creation was a manifestation of the beauty of God. He referred to animals as his brothers and sisters — all creatures were sacred, and just as worthy of love and compassion as humans. There are stories of birds that flocked around him as he preached. There is also a famous story of a wolf that he persuaded to stop attacking the villagers if the villagers gave it food.
Congregations Bless All Creatures
The blessing of the animals is an annual invitation for people to bring their four-legged friends to church services where they can receive a blessing. It is a time of reflecting on our roles as stewards to the Earth, and respecting all the creatures that live in it. Pope John Paul II once said, “St. Francis invited all creation — animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon — to give honor and praise to the Lord.”
Whether they have fur, scales, paws, or fins, this holiday honors the Earth’s animals, and highlights the importance of their role in our world. It is a time to remember St. Francis, and his mission of mercy and compassion to all creatures. As he once stated, “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission–to be of service to them wherever they require it.”
Carry on the Legacy
This celebration of St. Francis can remind us of how to live in harmony with nature and its inhabitants. As St. Francis preached, we, as humans, play an important role as stewards of the Earth and caretaker of its inhabitants. From bees to whales, all animals are a part of this planet and play a role in its future. If we want to honor the animals Noah protected on his Ark, we should carry on the legacy of St. Francis by being kind to them and using good ethics to ensure our decisions won’t harm them.
(Top image source: Natalie Maynor, Flickr)
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