As autumn arrives, you may glimpse a procession of animals being led to a church for a special ceremony. This event is called the Blessing of Pets, and it is held in commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi, who had a great love of all creatures. The Feast of St. Francis is October 4, and the pet blessing ceremony is performed in many churches during the month of October, usually outdoors.
According to Scripture, a blessing indicates “the imparting of power or life.” The person performing the blessing imparts it from God or Christ to the person or animal involved. The blessing of each animal, by name, means that health, healing and life are being mediated from God to the animals and their human partners.
Today there are over 62 million cats in the United States, which attests to the fact that animals play a big role in human existence. Pet owners say their animals are part of the family, providing comfort and understanding without uttering a single word.
The bond between person and pet is like no other relationship. Communication between pet and owner is love at its most basic level. The love given to and received from a pet draws us more deeply into the larger circle of life. It’s no wonder that people enjoy the opportunity of taking their beloved animal companions to church for a special blessing.
At Franciscan churches, a friar with brown robe and white cord traditionally 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.