On Sunday many churches around the world will celebrate the traditional “Blessing of the Animals.” This blessing is not simply a modern expression of our society’s love of pets but is actually a centuries-old Catholic tradition originating with the beloved Saint Francis of Assisi.
Saint Francis of Assisi started the tradition almost 800 years ago. Assisi, considered to be the patron saint of animals as well as the patron saint of ecology, is adored and respected for his deep appreciation and veneration of all creation.
He considered all creatures to be his brothers and sisters, and that his brothers and sisters were blessed, just as humans are, in God’s eyes. He believed nature was a reflection of God and emphasized that creation, indeed, included more than just humankind.
His honorary feast occurs every year on Oct. 4, and the “Blessing of the Animals” takes place on the Sunday closest to this celebration
Gail Nelson, a member and organist at First Lutheran Church in Battle Lake, has always had a deep love for animals and wanted to bring a “Blessing of the Animals” service to Battle Lake.
“When I lived in Minneapolis, the basilica … had a blessing-of-the-animals service and this humongous basilica would be filled with all kinds of animals,” she recalled. Inspired by her experience, Nelson suggested First Lutheran start its own blessing service and three years ago marked the first celebration. It continues to be a popular annual event.
“I just love all animals and I think it’s important that they are considered as more than, you know, just an animal, and I think it’s just nice that they’re blessed,” she says
People from any congregation are welcome to come and have their animals blessed. Cats, dogs, goldfish, horses; all animals are welcome as long as they can be restrained on a leash, rein, crate or in another manner.
A reception with cookies, pet treats and cider will follow the service.
“Everyone is invited, they don’t have to have a pet,” Nelson explains. “If they want to just come and be a part of the service or they like animals but can’t have one, or don’t have one, (they) are all welcome to come.”
The service will take place on Oct. 3 at First Lutheran Church in Battle Lake.