From the Founder : The Blessing of the Animals, a Bright & Beautiful First for Us

Blessing of the Animals at St. John's in Georgetown 2015
Frasier the Pup receiving her blessing

The Blessing of the Animals religious ceremony and tradition, which I attended on Sunday, October 4th, was new to me. Then again, so were and are a lot of functions and formalities of dog-excuse me, PUPPY-ownership. I do my best to be open to advice from pet owner veterans because I need all the help I can get. Not that I haven’t spent numerous sleepless nights gliding my finger over my iPhone’s brightly lit screen as I Google “Why is my puppy whining?” or “What should I do if my puppy eats gum?” or “When will my puppy’s bladder grow and she will stop having to pee 2-3 times a night?” and so on (as Frasier sleeps soundly next to my frantic Internet searching, sometimes she awakes, grunts, and backs her bony butt up to my belly, thus basically pushing me off the bed).

Blessing of the Animals at St. John's in Georgetown 2015
Louie gets blessed while Frasier looks on intently.

But one day after it became widely known that I had rescued a puppy in May, my friend Mary Bird, who is a Georgetown staple and a fabulous, stylish, always on the scene woman who writes for The Georgetowner, gave me the heads up that I must attend The Blessing of the Animals on Sunday, October 4th at St. John’s Episcopal Church on O Street, NW in Georgetown and I thought, well, I should. Just the title itself was a draw and sounded lovely.

The day suddenly arrived and I still knew nothing of why this event existed, but as Frasier and I (after she chose to go poop right at the intersection of Prospect and Potomac Streets – yes, ON the street – and I cleaned it up) climbed the stairs to the church on Sunday at 2pm, we were greeted by Mary, present clergy, friends Jamie and Stephen Howes with Louie, their adorable Schnauzer, and other participants in a loving, neighborly way. It being a less wet and cold afternoon and more a crisp fall, albeit overcast, day, the event was held outside on the lawn. We sang All things Bright and Beautiful, we heard the Prayer for the Animals by St. Francis of Assisi, (patron saint of animals and the environment) for whom this day honors,  listened to scripture, we said prayers together for pets who are lost, have died, and for those in shelters, and we said a Peace Prayer together. We all received delicate St. Francis medals to attach to our pups’ collars, a protection against ill will. Two legged guests were treated to Gtown Bites and four-legged guests to liver bark bites from The Cheeky Puppy in Dupont Circle. Each dog was personally addressed and blessed. It was one of the sweetest moments I’ve witnessed in Frasier’s 7 month life so far. She was fully attentive (maybe because there was a treat involved, however I tend to believe it’s because the Holy Spirit was captivating her) during her blessing. I fell in love all over again with this baby pup. Later, I noted on social media, with a huge smile, that other churches in the area had also observed this blessing.

Blessing of the Animals at St. John's in Georgetown 2015
Jamie and Stephen Howes with Louie (whom Frasier adored, I foresee a few puppy playdates in our future!)
Blessing of the Animals at St. John's in Georgetown 2015
Me with Frasier and Jamie with Louie in front of St. John’s

So what is this day all about? Here’s what I found out from one source:

Blessing of Animals
by Kevin E. Mackin, O.F.M.

As autumn arrives, people in various places may notice something odd. A procession of animals, everything from dogs and cats to hamsters and even horses, is led to churches for a special ceremony called the Blessing of Pets.
This custom is conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures.

Francis, whose feast day is October 4th, loved the larks flying about his hilltop town. He and his early brothers, staying in a small hovel, allowed themselves to be displaced by a donkey.

Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.” And there was testimony in the cause for St. Clare of Assisi’s canonization that referred to her little cat!

For single householders, a pet can be a true companion. Many people arrive home from work to find a furry friend overjoyed at their return. Many a senior has a lap filled with a purring fellow creature.

The bond between person and pet is like no other relationship, because the communication between fellow creatures is at its most basic. Eye-to-eye, a man and his dog, or a woman and her cat, are two creatures of love.

No wonder people enjoy the opportunity to take their animal companions to church for a special blessing. Church is the place where the bond of creation is celebrated..

The Blessing of Pets usually goes like this:

“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”

I highly recommend if you haven’t done this ceremony in the past, do so in the future. It’s a really special moment to gift to the one(s) who bless you with their unconditional love. And thank you to Mary Bird for organizing this wonderful event at St. John’s in Georgetown.

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