The Blessing of the Animals is a beautiful annual ceremony celebrating the human-animal bond, originating from a Roman Catholic tradition as part of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. St. Francis is one of the most beloved Catholic saints. He was admired for his deep and genuine respect for all creatures and his belief in the interdependency of humans with the rest of creation. Unsurprisingly, he’s also a favorite among many in the veterinary community.
Born to a wealthy family late in the 12th century, St. Francis took a vow of poverty after a religious experience and spent most of his life caring for the sick and the poor, but he was best known for his amazing bond with animals. He was often seen “preaching” to birds while they sat on his hand and was believed to have negotiated a truce between a village and a hungry wolf (the wolf was required to not kill the inhabitants or their animals in exchange for the inhabitants feeding the wolf). St. Francis insisted that all creatures were his brothers and sisters, and embodied that belief by always treating them with kindness and respect.
What Happens at the Blessing of the Animals?
In recent decades, this tradition has become very popular outside of the Catholic religion, and people of many faiths celebrate the special ceremony. For obvious reasons, it’s often held outdoors, but sometimes animals are invited into a church and can be seen sitting in pews with their humans, waiting patiently for their turn. Most ceremonies include mostly dogs and cats; however, birds, reptiles, horses, and even livestock can receive a blessing.
People gather with their animals wherever a blessing has been organized, usually at churches or parks. Some bring photos if it is too difficult or stressful for their animals to attend. The ceremony is short, typically including a prayer or dedication, verbal blessing, and holy water spritzed on the animal. The service emphasizes celebrating the bond of love and respect that animals have with their humans, and that humans have with all of creation.
How Can You Attend?
A quick Google search will help you find locations, dates, and times for a Blessing of the Animals in your area.
Here are two opportunities in our area to attend a blessing:
Saturday, October 7, 2017, in Portsmouth, VA – Portsmouth Humane Society & West End United Methodist Church First Annual Blessing of the Animals and Fall Bazaar.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017, in Smithfield, VA – Christ Episcopal Church in Smithfield, Virginia. Dog and cat treats will be available.
Share on Social Media
Tell us if you are celebrating Blessing of the Animals on October 4, 2017. Post photos of your pet participating in a ceremony on Instagram and/or Facebook. Please make sure to tag us @TheCoveVets and use #thecovevets in your posts!
The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.