On Oct. 3, a warm and clear Sunday afternoon, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church parishioners headed over to the Wellesley house of worship to sing hymns and recite prayers on the lawn, many with their best companions beside them. The humans and their dogs were led by rectors for the annual Blessing of the Animals service.
For the majority of the time, the rectors led churchgoers in songs and prayers to appreciate all things big and small. Later, each rector went around to bless the animals individually.
Blessing of the Animals is a worldwide service commemorating St. Francis of Assisi (one of the most popular Catholic Saints) and his love and appreciation of all creations. The practice has been present all the way since the 4th century and takes place every Sunday closest to St. Francis Day, Oct. 4. The event is very popular in Episcopal churches.
“We remember today—St Francis… who had a deep wisdom about appreciating all creations and honoring all of creation. Making sure that we recognize that we are all a part of a web of creation.” said Associate Rector Margaret Schwarzer.
After reciting prayers and blessings as a whole community, the rectors went to each animal. The prayers usually went like this:
“N., (name of animal, i.e. ‘Smokey’, not cat/dog) may you be blessed in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May you and (the name of the ‘owner’) enjoy life together and find joy with the God who created you.”
“N., may you be blessed in the Name of God who created you, and may you and (owner’s name) enjoy life together with our God.”
At St. Andrew’s, the blessings have been going on for decades, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event wasn’t held last year. Luckily this year services could be held outside, making it more COVID-friendly and safe for everyone.
This year’s service was more dog-heavy than those of years past since these pets are easier to keep tabs on outside. Cats and caged animals have made appearances when services are held indoors.
To all the parishioners and rectors, this service means a lot to them and the happiness of their pets. It’s a time to reflect and thank God for creating creatures besides humans.
“For me what it means is giving thanks to all the blessings—God’s creation. Typically these animals teach us to love in a different way. They show us love and we show them love and mostly just remembering that this world that we have is not just our world but their world, too. It always makes me think about how we need to re-care for the world around us.” says Head Rector Adrian Robbins-Cole.
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