The feast day of St. Francis is on Oct. 4, and for many churches this means the blessing of the animals. This is a process in which pets, on leashes or in cages, or pictures of pets are blessed by clergy. This activity takes place in many denominations, including Lutheran, Catholic, and even Interfaith gatherings.
History of the Blessing of Animals
In many pet blessings, this custom is conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures. For example, at Franciscan churches, a priest or friar wearing a brown robe and white cord will welcome each animal with a special prayer. Traditionally, this prayer would not be limited to household pets like cats or dogs–it could include farm animals such as goats or cows, as well. During this blessing, the priest would usually say something like this:
“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”
The Blessing of the Pets Today
In modern time, the blessing of the pets has become a tradition not specific to the Catholic Church. It has become a way for pet owners to honor their relationship with their pets and the special role pets have in our community. To that end, there are many ways pet owners can participate in the blessing of the pets without having to bring their pet to a church ceremony. In fact, there are many opportunities to honor your pet in a secular context that is similar to the blessing of the pet that takes place at various churches.
If you want to honor your pet via the Church process but can’t bring your pet with you, you can buy medallions featuring St. Francis that can be blessed and put on your pet’s collar such as those offered here. Having objects blessed is not uncommon in the Catholic church and can save your pet discomfort if it isn’t comfortable traveling or being in unfamiliar locations.
You can honor a friend or family member’s pet as well. For example, you can send an e-card to a pet owner to share your own sort of pet blessing. This is also a way to honor the memory of a pet who has passed and still has a special place in someone’s heart.
If you want to do your own ceremony or want more information on pet blessings, check out these various multifaith prayers. This is especially helpful for people who don’t belong to any particular church but still want to honor their pet in a spiritual manner in the privacy of their own home.
If you are looking for a Catholic church that does pet blessings, you can use this tool to find pet blessing events within the United States. You can also refer this tool to someone who has pets and are unsure of where to go to get their pet blessed.
Another option is to ask for others to pray for your pet online such as through Say A Prayer for My Pet. Sometimes knowing that you have the support of the community, even if they are strangers, can help bolster people spiritually.