Sep 08, 2021St. Francis Day: Blessing of the Animals

St. Francis Day: Blessing of the Animals

Kim Snodgrass Three-minute read.   Resources
Invite your local media – in pre-COVID times Animal Blessings were popular. Image: gary Allman

The Episcopal Church has long believed that animals (and all creation) are gifts from God and that people are responsible for being good stewards of the earth and all its inhabitants.

The church has spoken out against puppy mills, factory farms, and any other animal husbandry methods that cause suffering to animals. Even in 1840, the Rev. Thomas Fuller regretted that humans had exterminated some species and enslaved the rest, writing, “We have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the devil in human form.”

A Blessing of Animals, in many congregations, witnesses to God’s and the Church’s love, care, and concern for creation. As we recognize our mutual interdependence with God’s creatures, the Church’s witness of stewardship of creation is strengthened. 

Because St. Francis of Assisi was well known for his love of animals and all of nature, services are commonly held on or near his feast day, October 4 to remember and emulate Francis’ example of love for animals and appreciation of God’s creation.

Services provide a way to champion care for animals, and to preach about Christian responsibility for creation. Many include a means to reinforcing our common kinship by blessing all animals–human and otherwise, by

  • giving thanks for the companionship of our furry, feathered, and scaled companions
  • repenting for our abuse of, and cruelty to, animals
  • celebrating all of God’s creation
  • Nurturing compassion for individual animals.

A blessing of each animal, by name, means that health, healing, and life are being mediated by God for the benefit of the animal in its relationship with its human partners. Here are a few services to explore –

  • A Service for Animal Welfare
  • A Blessing of the Animals by St. Paul the Redeemer, Chicago, IL
  • Put animals on the agenda using the Animal Welfare Sunday guide published by the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals
  • A Blessing of the Animals and additional resources by Andy Wade
  • Bendición de los animales en Español El enfoque principal de esta liturgia es la expresión pública de la unión que tenemos con todos los animales.  Es también una oportunidad para manifestar que los animales son parte integral de nuestra vida de adoración y de nuestras relaciones con el resto de la creación de Dios.
  • A Drive-Thru Blessing encourages people to show their pet some extra love. Open it to the community, and people of all faith traditions, by hosting a Saturday morning outdoor service where pet owners can easily gather, bringing with them dogs, cats, frogs, and chickens.
  • Offer a verbal blessing in your own backyard, then read the Canticle of Creatures aloud to hear St. Francis express his love for animals.
Getzger Cat meets Farrah Ferret. Image: Gary Allman

An additional book resource is Blessing of the Animals:  A Guide to Prayers & Ceremonies Celebrating Pets & Other Creatures by Diana Guerrero.  It is described this way:  “Blessing of the Animals is a mix of historical fact, fun, quirky descriptions, heartfelt sentiments, and novel ceremonies involving pets and other animals.”

If your congregation is hosting a Blessing of the Animals ceremony, let us know so we can post the date, time, and location. And then share your story by sending a photo of your pet blessing with a short description. We can compile the photos in an album and share them.

Go a little deeper

  • Consider donating pet food or gently used blankets and towels to the local animal shelter around this time of the year.
  • A book about St. Francis of Assisi would provide an opportunity to teach children about endangered or abused animals and what we can do to help.
  • This year encourage participants to support a local animal rescue shelter with a cash donation or by purchasing items from a wish list you create. Food and funds will go a long way to helping struggling local families keep their pets in these tough economic times.

Kim Snodgrass is Assistant to the Bishop for Christian Formation.

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