October 4th is the Feast of St Francis St. Francis who founded the Franciscan Order. He is the patron saint for animals, the environment and Italy. Many churches around the world are getting ready to bless the animals either on that day or on the following Sunday. It is a fun experience. At our church last year our dog Bonnie was just one of the dogs and cats gathered around the labyrinth to be blessed.
This celebration is increasing in popularity as people reconnect to the earth and the animals it nourishes. This year the Diocese of Olympia will bless the animals at Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle, as part of an emerging mission of “outdoor church” in the Diocese of Olympia which conducts ritual gatherings in public places. St. Andrew and St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Alexandria Virginia holds their blessing in conjunction with a petting zoo and opportunity for participants to adopt animals.
The blessing of the animals does far more then acknowledge that we are the stewards of creation, a viewpoint that can still consciously or unconsciously make us feel that we have control and power over the rest of God’s creation. Blessing of the animals reminds us that God created all life and infuses all life with a part of the divine essence. That doesn’t mean that all animals are made in the image of God – that language is reserved for humans. But think about it. Whenever you make something, part of your personality, your creativity, your passion goes into that creation. I am sure that is true for God’s creativity too. Anyone who has a dog and experiences their unconditional love will affirm this.
Last year I wrote this post about animal blessing, highlighting the work of Episcopal Relief and Development and their free resource from which the liturgy I posted was drawn. This morning I was thinking about the many other organizations I know that work to provide families with animals that sustain them and help to draw them out of poverty. Others work to preserve the world’s wild animals. Still others rescue animals that are abused and mistreated or abandoned. Still others train service dogs to work with the disabled. Here are a few that you might want to highlight in your prayers: