"Learning from Weirdos?"....Blessing of the Animals

October 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (https://www.biographyonline.net/spiritual/st-francis-assisi.html) on October 4 each year. It’s a popular day for pets to be “blessed”. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century and is the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment, because of his love for animals and the environment. Today, St. Francis is also the patron saint of ecologists. Why have I titled this “Learning from the Weirdos”? The website “Christianity Today” has a great article by this same title (https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2014/june-online-only/learning-from-weirdos.html) which covers the works of St. Francis of Assisi and other people who were referred to as “mystics” in their day and looked down on as weird. We’ve come a very long way since those days.

I attended the Washington National Cathedral’s blessing of the animals on October 7 (https://cathedral.org/event/blessing-of-the-animals-2017-10-01-2018-10-07/). It was such a beautiful and fun ceremony. A couple of my photos from the event follow. This is such a special event because it gives us chance to think about animals’ place in religious belief, faith and spirituality. So, what brings a church to bless animals?

Many religions provide reverence and respect to animals, recognize them as created by God and some confer spirituality to animals of all kinds. In the Christian faith, many Bible passages recognize the importance and significance of animals:

Genesis 1:21 

  • “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Christianity also recognizes that in Genesis 9:9-10 animals were saved from the flood and afterwards made a part of the covenant with Noah.

  •  “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.”

Father Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation (https://cac.org/) says:

  • “God shows authentic, primal concern for all animals by directing Noah to take a male and female of every species onto the ark to be saved (see Genesis 7:2-3).  Apparently, animals matter and are worth “saving.” After the flood, God makes a covenant, not just with people but with all of creation.” https://cac.org/every-being-is-of-gods-making-2018-03-07/

The answer to my question about what brings a church to bless animals, was even further clarified by these passages I’ve come across:

From Father Richard Rohr: https://cac.org/nature-reflects-gods-goodness-2018-03-06/

  • “Every day we have opportunities to reconnect with God through an encounter with nature, whether an ordinary sunrise, a starling on a power line, a tree in a park, or a cloud in the sky. This spirituality doesn’t depend on education or belief. It almost entirely depends on our capacity for simple presence. Often those without formal education and “unbelievers” do this better than a lot of us.” 
  • “Each and every creature is a unique word of God, with its own message, its own metaphor, its own energetic style, its own way of showing forth goodness, beauty, and participation in the Great Mystery.”
  • “The world is created as a means of God’s self-revelation so that, like a mirror or footprint, it might lead us to love and praise the Creator. “
  • “Anyone who truly knows creatures may be excused from listening to sermons, for every creature is full of God, and is a book.”

From Meister Eckhart (13th century German Catholic “mystic”, theologian, and spiritual psychologist” https://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Meister_Eckhart.html)

  • “Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.” 

From Pope John Paul II:

  • During World Environment Day in 1982, Pope John Paul II said that St. Francis’ love and care for creation was a challenge for contemporary Catholics and a reminder “not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us.”

From Pope Francis, 2017: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20170901_messaggio-giornata-cura-creato.html

  • “The story of creation presents us with a panoramic view of the world. Scripture reveals that, “in the beginning”, God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.”

God bless all creations.

Blessing of the Animals - Washington National CathedralBlessing of the Animals - Washington National Cathedral Blessing of the Animals - Washington National CathedralBlessing of the Animals - Washington National Cathedral







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