St Francis of Assisi is often cited as the inspiration for Christian concern for the environment. The 12th century monk is best known as the patron saint of animals and ecology, his legendary ability to ‘talk’ to birds and tame a wild wolf remind us of our human responsibility to all creatures.
The Feast of St Francis of Assisi, or World Animal Day, is held annually on 4 October. On this day many churches incorporate a ‘Blessing of the Animals/Pets Service’ into their Sunday liturgies.
Rev Barbara Allen is a spirituality and creation project worker with the Commission for Mission. She said a pet blessing service is a terrific opportunity for churches to invite community members who might not attend church to bring their beloved pets along and celebrate the day.
“Blessing of the Animals services have a long tradition, well entrenched in Catholic circles,” Ms Allen said.
“They provide an opportunity for us to reach out to our four-legged/winged/finned brethren, thank God for their presence, and vow to make their lives better. This is one reason why the broader title ‘Animals’ rather than ‘Pets’ is applied.”
Even those who don’t own a pet can join in the spirit of the day. Ms Allen encourages people to think of other ways to bless animals, such as donating money or food products to animal shelters.
While the day is all about blessing animals, many would agree that they themselves have been blessed with the pets in their life. Crosslight’s own Ros Marsden recently welcomed a greyhound into her home, and encourages others to think of alternatives when it comes to purchasing a pet.
“Alfie is our daughter’s dog and has become such an integral part of our family it’s hard to imagine what we did without him,” Ros said.
“Greyhounds are often thought of as relentless hunters and excitable – I can assure readers the opposite is true. The family cat is certainly the boss of Alfie, and he is never happier then when stretched out on our couch watching TV with us.”
Babara agrees with Ros’ sentiment that our companion animals enrich our lives and make us better people.
“This is an opportunity to acknowledge the ways that other species bless us,” Barbara said.
“It also encourages us us to re-think what it means to be stewards of creation.
Barbara hopes that by celebrating the day, people will revisit the words of St Francis of Assisi, as relevant today as they were 900 years ago.
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
Saint Francis of Assisi
For more information on preparing worship go to: http://seasonofcreation.com
To find out more about the GAP (Greyhound Adoption Program) go to: http://gap.grv.org.au/ (Victoria) or http://www.gaptas.org.au/ (Tasmania).