Today Nina participated in a very special festivity – the Blessing of the Animals. It was held outside the front portico of Meadow Lake Senior Living Community where she lives with her family. The Very Reverend M.L. Agnew of St. John’s Episcopal Church officiated at the ceremony.
He mentioned how in Genesis animals were created first before man and were given to man as his responsibility to care, protect and nurture.
He went on to expound on the life of Francis of Assisi and how he came to be the patron saint of animals and the environment. Francis lived in Italy between 1181 and 1226 in the city of Assisi in Italy. He was born into a wealthy family, having a merchant father and a mother of nobility, but forewent everything to live in poverty becoming the Founder of an order of monks – the Franciscans. He devoted his life ministering to the poor and preaching humility and forgiveness. He often meditated alone in the outdoors, close to God’s creation. Francis had much love for animals with special fondness for the birds. He even preached to the birds during his travels. He liked to refer to animals as his brothers and sisters.
Francis died at the age of 44 and soon after was canonized a saint. October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi and the day on which the animals are blessed in his name. This event is held at churches around the world and is a public expression of the bond we have with all animals.
During the ceremony Father Agnew intoned the words “Bless O God, these your precious creatures, and all who are involved in their care and protection,” to a general response of, “Amen”.
The hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, inspired by Psalm 104, was recited and the festivity ended with the song “How Great Thou Art”.
At this point Father Agnew approached the pets present and laying his hand over each one blessed it in the name of St. Francis and asked that it be healthy as well as a comfort and companion to its owner.
Nina was very demure and watched the whole thing with interest. When the priest approached her she lowered her head, as if in humility, to receive the blessing. Afterwards she sat up to greet the Minister.
In both the Christian ceremony performed in early October and in Jewish ceremonies in early Spring, the message to those of us with animal companions is the same: take care of them as you would take care of yourself.
Show gratitude – they are gifts from God.