The feast of St. Francis of Assisi was this past Wednesday, and was commuted by many parishes to Sunday. As the saint is associated with animals, many churches hold a “blessing of the pets,” when parishioners can bring in their pets, or symbols of their pets, such as a collar or favorite toy, for blessing. This annual event is a delight, and can also raise awareness for homeless animals in shelters. St. Philip’s Episcopal Church of Joplin, MO, has held their pet blessing at the local humane society since 2012, for example. Church members still bring their pets for the blessing, but Father Frank Sierra also makes his way through the shelter, praying over all of its residents. “There are a lot of animals around us,” he said, “who don’t have homes and don’t have nurturing humans to care for them, so we lift them to God, and God knows each and every one of them.”
In Bluefield, WV, Rev. Chad Slater blessed the pets of his parishioners and other local churchgoers. “The event today is meant to commemorate St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. It is also to serve as an opportunity for people here in the community with the shelter and different pet rescues to come out and showcase their different types of ministries. And allow us all the opportunity to just appreciate our pets and show them how much we love them and they love us.”
While most of the animal attendees are dogs, there are generally a few cats, and sometimes more exotic animals, such as snakes or birds. Father Sierra says he once blessed a miniature elephant, and on another occasion, a squirrel. Regardless, at these pet blessings, each animal is blessed individually and with love, a reminder of how much they give us.