BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS Joyous service celebrates God's Creatures
The morning sun shone bright in a clear sky on Sunday, October 13, providing a cool and beautiful setting for the Blessing of the Animal’s service at St. James. After the 8AM traditional service concluded the Dean, Deacons, and members of the Laity worked diligently to set up patio chairs, altar, choir seats, and sound system which included an electric piano. Parishioners and pets were greeted at the archway by an usher and encouraged to enjoy coffee hour treats and mingle before the service started. At St. James we’re blessed to have a Franciscan serving as one of our Deacons. Deacon Terrance said of the tradition: "Franciscan’s all over the world have the tradition of blessing animals on the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. This is not just some silly celebration of all things cute and fury but in fact a celebration of something much more profound. When we bless our animal friends we give thanks to God who made them. We celebrate the insight of Saint Francis who saw himself not so much as steward or caretaker of creation but rather as a brother to all living things. We are sister and brother to all creatures. This integrity and inter-dependence of creation leads us to respect, care and reverence for our planet and the universe. At St. James last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of St. Francis by blessing the animals of our community. It was an exciting morning as many animals were blessed from cats, dogs, birds and even some stuffed animal companions. The Cathedral courtyard and lawn was filled with the sounds of barking, mewing, and cawing as well as music and prayer. The love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, can draw us more deeply into the larger circle of life, into the wonder of our common relationship to our Creator. The Dean prayed over dogs, cats, stuffed otters, and pictures of furry companions while parishioners mingled and greeted each other.
Eucharist was also a multi-species affair as dogs led their humans up to the clergy, or cats watched from their perches on their loved one’s laps as wafers and wine were distributed. A reading from Genesis and a Canticle worked in harmony to tell the story of Creation and its glory. Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever. In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever. Let the earth glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever. Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills, and all that grows upon the earth, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever. Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams, * O whales and all that move in the waters. All birds of the air, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever. Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild, * and all you flocks and herds. O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Dean Ryan provided a reflection on the readings and on our call to care for all of God’s creation. The Prayers of the People were dedicated to creation and care, and reminded us to be grateful for their beauty and companionship. We prayed also for the results of our own neglect in stewardship for, “those animals that are missing, for those animals clinging to life and hope, for those animals waiting to be rescued, and those who have perished.” The entire service was inspired by the abiding humanity and enduring urge for peace exemplified by the life and ministry of St. Francis. After Eucharist was completed we lifted our voices as one in the prayer most commonly associated with St. Francis. Lord, Make me a channel of your peace Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope Where there’s darkness only light And where there's sadness only joy. O Master, grant that I may never seek So much to be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, To be loved, as to love, with all my soul. Amen. St. Francis, and the parishioners of St. James, truly seek to answer need with prayer and action. To be a blessing to those around them, and to live lives in accordance with not only the example of St. Francis but all saints and Christ himself. Blessing our animal companions is only one part of a greater call to service.