By Megan Knowles| firstname.lastname@example.org
Several area churches and Catholic schools will carry on a more than 100-year-old tradition as they celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi with blessings of the pets.
St. Francis of Assisi was an Italian Roman Catholic friar, deacon and preacher who lived in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. He is one of the most venerated saints and is well known as the patron saint of animals.
“Most people know already that St. Francis found God in nature,” explained Sister Anita Holzmer OSF, assistant vice president of mission integration and director of the Center for Franciscan Life at the University of Saint Francis. “He looked at animals as a way of relating with creation.”
St. Francis saw animals as beings in their own right, having dignity because they were created by God, Holzmer said. He also saw in animals positive aspects that reminded him of Jesus or God.
Though she wasn’t sure exactly when it started, Holzmer said people have been blessing pets to honor St. Francis’ feast day, which takes place Oct. 4, since the 19th century. It has become even more popular since 1979, when St. Francis was named the patron saint of ecology, she added.
Churches who have participated in this event for a number of years say they have seen animals of all shapes and sizes.
“[We’ve seen] everything from cats and dogs to smaller pets like rabbits and Guinea pigs, snakes and reptiles [to] farm animals, horses and sheep and cows,” Pastor William Smith of Resurrection Lutheran Church said.
Most churches and schools have parishioners and members of the community bring their animal friends for a short prayer and a blessing for both the pets and their owners. Most of these events occur outdoors and many encourage fellowship after the blessing is over.
It is because of this special connection between human and animal that churches and religious schools continue to carry on this tradition.
“For a lot of people in our congregation and community the animals in their lives are important companions and souls to be protected and loved as well,” said Rebecca Karcher, director of communication and community engagement at Trinity English Lutheran Church. “This event acknowledges that.”
Blessings of the Pets
- Sunday, Oct. 1, 3 p.m.: Plymouth Congregational Church, 501 W. Berry St., Fort Wayne.
- Sunday, Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m.: University of Saint Francis, Brookside Manor, Fort Wayne.
- Wednesday, Oct. 4, all day: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School, 10650 Aboite Center Road, Fort Wayne.
- Saturday, Oct. 7, 11 a.m.: Resurrection Lutheran Church, 14318 Lima Road, Huntertown.
- Sunday, Oct. 8, 3 p.m.: Grace Episcopal Church, 10010 Aurora Place, Fort Wayne.
- Saturday, Oct. 14, 2-4 p.m.: Trinity English Lutheran Church, 450 W. Washington Blvd., Fort Wayne.