Marking St. Francis day by supporting the bereaved

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The first two weekends in October have been traditionally the time when Episcopal parishes hold their annual “Blessing of the Animals” as a particular way of marking the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Generally that involves blessing people and their pets and praying for many happy years together. But what sort of support does the Church have for people who are grieving the loss of their animal companions?


Emily Mellot, the Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Lombard IL, decided to see what she could do to answer that question:

“When her cat of 14 years, Bronwyn, died last spring, Mellott was comforted by the ‘very supportive’ staff at Lombard Veterinary Hospital.

[…]’Every church I’ve ever been involved with offered a regular pet blessing, but when a pet dies, the grief is very real and it’s not something we know what to do with in our culture or in our churches,’ said Mellott, pastor at Calvary Episcopal Church in Lombard.

[…]So she decided to partner with the veterinary hospital on a Service of Thanksgiving for the Lives of our Pets. The service, to commemorate pets that have died and bless those that are still playing catch or curling up on their owner’s laps, is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, on the grounds of the hospital, 244 E. St. Charles Road.

Bereaved pet owners may bring a photo, favorite toy or the ashes of their pet to the short, family-friendly service. Afterward, they’ll have an opportunity to pray with one of the three participating clergy members.”

More here.

And of course anyone is also invited to bring along the pets for a blessing as well.

Are your congregations marking St. Francis’ day in any special way this year?

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Tom Sramek, Jr.
Guest

Just to be clear--I have absolutely NO problem with my friend and colleague Emily Mellot's "Service of Thanksgiving for the Lives of our Pets." In fact, I think it is an outstanding idea. I just think we need to be careful not to equate a child with an animal. They are worlds apart.

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Tom Sramek, Jr.
Guest

With all do respect, EH Culver, pets are NOT people. They are beloved creatures of God, they are loved by us, but they are NOT PEOPLE. This is a sore issue with me as I've seen people spend more money on their dogs (generally it is dogs) than is possibly ethically defensible, wheel them around in baby carriages, take them into grocery stores, bookstores, and restaurants, and essentially treat them exactly the way one would treat a child.

This is ridiculous. I have two cats. I grieved when we lost a cat a year ago. However, I provide basic care and affection for them--I DON'T treat them like people.

As we embark on the Blessing of the Animals tomorrow let us remember--we're blessing them, not baptizing them!

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IT
Guest

St Paul's Cathedral (San Diego) traditionally holds a HOly Eucharist service of remembrance for animal companions, on the Saturday before the blessing of the animals.

Pets and their people will fill the Cathedral pews on Sunday (amazingly all are well-behaved). After the (rather abbreviated) Eucharist all will repair to the courtyard for individual blessings.

Although in the case of our evil parrot, an exorcism would probably be more appropriate. 😉

--Susan Forsburg

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EH Culver
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EH Culver

Heartfelt condolences to all who have lost a pet. Pets are people, too.

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