Blessing of pets and the animals, St. Francis of Assisi, churches, modern society: I am not sure about a church’s hosting a blessings of the pets. I realize this has become common in Episcopal churches. My brother’s family took their pets years ago, and one of their dogs died inexplicably four days later. I now see it creeping into Presbyterian churches.
Who are we doing this for? The children of the congregation?
Has your church offered this service?
As I said, I am just not sure about the blessing of the pets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge pet fan. I adore my beasts. I feel blessed to have them. And i also believe they are blessed to call my home their home.
But aren’t there some people we should invite into our church for a blessing who take priority?
Some excerpts from my FB conversation …
Our church does this . . . Two thoughts on it. I have friends whose pets are their children, and they feel a blessing is a good thing for them. As for the kids, I do think it is important to remind them that God loves them, God loves their pets and that can all take place in the context of the church. That being said, none of our pets have been blessed at our church. For some reason, I was more willing to wrestle and wrangle my four children to church every Sunday to show off that dog and pony show, but not going to do that for my dog. My poorly behaved dog (sweet though she may be) is where I draw the line in public humiliation! I say “bless her” plenty for me!
Its origins come from the ministry of St. Francis of Assisi and it a way of honoring his commitment to all of God’s creation. It does appeal to kids, but also to the many folks in the congregation and the community who have a strong bond with their animals and for whom such a service has deep meaning. I’ve done it in Methodist churches, as well. I find it to be personally significant and a good outreach to the community as well. I don’t think it precludes also offering other services to bless God’s human creatures as well, such as healing services.
All creatures, great and small!
We go to St Francis in the Fields in Louisville. And am a huge St Francis devotee. The Blessing of the Pets is very sweet….however the reality is St Francis was primarily committed to preaching the Gospel… Not playing with animals. Francis gave his clothes to lepers, denounced his materialistic family, fasted frequently, went to the Middle East to preach the gospel, rebuilt crumbling churches, and founded the Franciscan Order that walked barefoot all over Mexico preaching the Gospel and building dozens of mission churches from San Francisco to Texas to Central America. We err when we soften and sanitize him. Love my 4 dogs but would never want to compromise the reality of St Francis and the blazing Spirit Filled life he lead and legacy he left for the Church.
It’s a fun thing we do an North Avenue – not much theology and I agree that it’s something that reflects our relationship to God’s creation. I love reading an account of how Dietrich Bonhoeffer put this in some perspective when he was talking with a 10 year boy who had just lost his beloved pet “Herr Wolf.” … So here is the account of Bonhoeffer talking with the 10 year old boy: “Today I encountered a completely unique case in my pastoral counseling, which I’d like to recount to you briefly and which despite its simplicity really made me think. At 11:00 a.m. there was a knock at my door and a ten-year-old boy came into my room with something I had requested from his parents. I noticed that something was amiss with the boy, who is usually cheerfulness personified. And soon it came out: he broke down in tears, completely beside himself, and I could hear only the words: “Herr Wolf ist tod” [Mr. Wolf is dead.], and then he cried and cried.
“But who is Herr Wolf?” As it turns out it is a young German shepherd dog that was sick for eight days and had just died a half-hour ago. So the boy, inconsolable, sat down on my knee and could hardly regain his composure; he told me how the dog had died and how everything is lost now. He played only with the dog, each morning the dog came to the boy’s bed and awakened him—and now the dog was dead. What could I say? So he talked to me about it for quite a while.
Then suddenly his wrenching crying became very quiet and he said: “But I know he’s not dead at all.” “What do you mean?” “His spirit is now in heaven, where it is happy. Once in a class a boy asked the religion teacher what heaven was like, and she said she had not been there yet; but tell me now, will I see Herr Wolf again? He’s certainly in heaven.”
So there I stood and was supposed to answer him yes or no. If I said, “no, we don’t know” that would have meant, “no.”…So I quickly made up my mind and said to him: “Look, God created human beings and also animals, and I’m sure he also loves animals. And I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth—genuinely loved each other—will remain together with God, for to love is part of God. Just how that happens though we admittedly don’t know.”
You should have seen the happy face on this boy; he had completely stopped crying. “So then I’ll see Herr Wolf again when I am dead; then we can play together again”—in a word he was ecstatic. I repeated to him a couple of times that we don’t really know how this happens. He however knew, and knew it definitely in thought. After a few minutes he said: “Today I really scolded Adam and Eve; if they had not eaten the apple, Herr Wolf would not have died.”
This whole affair was as important to the young boy as things are for us when something really bad happens. But I am almost surprised—moved by the naïveté of the piety that awakens at such a moment in an otherwise completely wild young boy who is thinking of nothing. And there I stood—I who was supposed to “know the answer”—feeling quite small next to him; and I cannot forget the confident expression he had on his face when he left.” (from the book “Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy)
I hate it.
So I drove by another church offering blessing of the animals, Holy Covenant UCC » Blessing of the Animals … so is there a set date for this? Is this done in the Catholic churches? Will Pope Francis offer such a service?
As autumn arrives, people in various places may notice something odd.
A procession of animals, everything from dogs and cats to hamsters and even horses, 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!
At Franciscan churches, a friar with brown robe and white cord often welcomes each animal with a special prayer. The Blessing of Pets usually goes like this:
“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”