On Sunday September 16th, I officiated a blessing of the animals ceremony at Penn's Angel's Beagle Rescue 7th annual barbeque. There were more than 30 assorted beagles and a good time was had by all!
The blessing of the animals is a custom that is held in honor and remberance of St Francis of Assisi whose feast day is Oct 4th. He is well know for his love of animals and is the patron saint of animals and the environment! In his writing The Canticle of creatures he declares "all praise to you O Lord for all these brother and sister creatures!" Kevin E Markin, a Franciscan monk writes "I believe that every creature is important and the love that we give and receive from a pet can draw us more deeply into the larger circle of life and into the wonder of our common relationship to our Creator"
The bond between person and their pet is like no other relationship because communication is at its most basic and characterized by unconditional love! We know that pets can be therapeutic and many nursing homes have resident cats and/or dogs! My hospice uses therapy dogs to visit and draw out patients! Owning a pet can reduce ones blood pressure and boost the immune system. But the bottom line is that pets bring us comfort and make us happy!
The custom of blessing the animals began in the middle ages and is offered these days in many Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches and a smattering of protestant churches! One of the most well known services is an annual blessing that takes place at the Episcopal Cathedral St John the Divine in NYC! Elephants, camels along with dogs, cats and fish process down the center aisle to the altar where they receive their blessing!
The blessing of most of the beagles on Sunday was appropriate, for many of them had been rescued from abusive and terrible situations by Penny's Angels and now were surrounded by love and attention. The blessing offered was with a hand on the dog's head and the words "May you blessed in the name of God and may you and your family enjoy life together for many years!"