Sunday, October 6, 2019
Most High, omnipotent, good Lord, To
thee be ceaseless praise out poured,
And blessing without measure.
Let creatures all give thanks to thee
And serve in great humility.
St. Francis of Assisi
“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."
~~ St. Francis of Assisi
On a Sunday early in October, churches around the world will celebrate something that St. Francis of Assisi started almost 800 years ago: blessing
our animals. It was Francis who first introduced the idea that human beings are only one of a myriad of creations of God and all are blessed in God’s
“eyes.” The feast day of St. Francis (the day that he died) is celebrated every year on October 4, and blessing of the animal services are usually
scheduled for the Sunday closest to that day.
The first blessing of the animals happened like this: One warm afternoon early in his ministry (sometime between 1210-15), Francis wandered
outside of Assisi, full of self-doubt, asking God if perhaps everything he had done until that point had been for the wrong reasons. Francis wondered
if he should have simply gotten married and raised a family as his father wanted him to do. It was while he was praying alone to God that Francis
glimpsed some birds along the path. He paused and began to speak to them as if to equals. Soon, he began to “preach” to them about God’s glories
and all the reasons why both humans and birds should be grateful. That day marks the beginning of the environmental movement, the beginning of
the era when we begin to understand ourselves as intrinsically connected to all of creation.
He exhibited a sensitivity to the living and organic things around him that sets him apart from other people of his day and the saints who came
before him. He even cared for the inanimate objects of creation with a sensitivity that is similar to Buddhist teachings about kindness toward all
All are invited to celebrate fully with us as we give praise to our Creator who has gifted us and all living creatures with love and life.
As autumn arrives, people in various places may notice something odd-- A procession of animals, everything from dogs and cats to hamsters and even a slunk, is led to churches for a special ceremony called the Blessing of Pets. This custom is conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures.
Francis, whose feast day is October 4th, 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. 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.” And there was testimony in the cause for St. Clare of Assisi’s canonization that referred to her little cat!
That there are today over 62 million cats in the U.S. attests to the continuing affection we have for our furry, feathered or finned friends. We've even had a cat called Socks in the White House. 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. And petting your beloved pet most likely lowers your blood pressure.
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 man and his dog, or a woman and her cat, are two creatures of love.
No wonder people enjoy the opportunity to take their animal companions to church for a special blessing.
Church is the place where the bond of creation is celebrated.
More history on St. Francis and the Blessing of the Pets.