This morning at church we sang a hymn that begins with the words, “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing; Alleluia! Alleluia!” This hymn was written by Francis of Assisi. Francis was known for his love for animals and it is said he often preached to them. He saw them as his brothers and sisters. Many continue to recognize our spiritual kinship to the animals we share this planet with. In fact, this recognition has led several churches to have an annual blessing of the animals on St. Francis’ Feast Day, October 4. People bring their pets, large and small, to a church or designated location and they receive a blessing from a minister. When I lived in Middlesboro, Kentucky, I took our dog to such a service and had her blessed.
I suspect a lot of people would think blessing animals to be sentimental nonsense but I cannot help but believe that this is a wonderful practice. Like us, these animals were created by God. In Genesis 1 we read “And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” This passage reminds us not only that God created the animals but that He also declared them to be good. They were His idea and each plays a role in His Creation. As such, they deserve to be blessed.
I really don’t know if anything special happens to the animals when they are blessed but I’m pretty sure that something happens to us. We hopefully come to realize our kinship with the rest of Creation and also our responsibility to care for those God called “good” and St. Francis called his “brothers and sisters.” My wife and I have a dog that we got from an animal shelter after it had been abused and abandoned. Sierra has brought Bonita and I much joy. I honestly see her as a blessing from God. I can only hope she thinks the same when she looks up at me.