Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 10, 2005
St. Francis draws out the animals
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Toby the dog went to church Sunday, Oct. 2. Close to him was Hanna the cat, an unnamed hamster and many other furry friends. It looked like a zoo.
About 100 parishioners and some 40 of their pets gathered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish hall for the first annual Franciscan pet blessing.
The 900-year-old tradition, usually known as Blessing of the Animals, commemorates the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4, and his love for all animals. The Secular Franciscan Order of St. Bernard Fraternity sponsored the 30-minute ceremony with Franciscan Brothers Gerry Clyne and Dan Gurnick presiding.
"May we bless these animals with a Noah-like protection from all that may harm them," Clyne said after asking pet owners to bless their own pets by making the sign of the cross on their pet or over their cage.
"May we, like Adam and Eve, speak to these creatures with kindness and affection, reverencing their life and purpose in our communal creation. We may never treat these creatures as dumb animals, but rather seek to learn their language as St. Francis did."
Then, as a children's choir performed Canticle of the Sun, Clyne and Gurnick blessed each of about 40 pets, mostly dogs and cats, individually.
"I wanted him to receive God's blessing because he is very special to me," said parishioner Jim Ingram of his 10-year-old dog Toby, a well-behaved Shih Tzu that enjoyed being petted.
"I love him. He is my best friend and he has helped me overcome some major difficulties in my life."
Julie Broyles came to the ceremony with her 18-month-old cat Hanna, a white, blue-eyed Brinan cat that looked somewhat frightened and puzzled inside her cage.
"I wanted to have her blessed so she can have a long and healthy life," Broyles said. "Having her blessed makes me feel more at peace."
Linda Batdorf, a secular Franciscan and one of the blessing organizers, was pleased with the turnout and said the ceremony will become an annual event at the parish.
Batdorf brought her dogs Oakley, 2, and Spencer, 14, to the blessing. "I think the blessing does more for me than it does for them but I know they felt very special while they were being blessed."
Born in Assisi, Italy, in 1181, St. Francis was known for his love of nature and all creatures.
He is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
The tradition of blessing God's creatures started soon after his death in 1226.
"St. Francis had a profound respect and love for all of God's creatures," said Clyne. "He understood that we have a common Creator and that, in many ways, we are all connected."