Fr. Jack Topper poses with pets and owners on blessing day.
Although St. Francis’ feast day isn’t until October, the Servites at The Grotto in Northeast Portland do us a favor every year by having the Blessing of the Animals in July.
For one, it’s dry. Two, it’s easier for us to transport our beloved pets for the blessing during good weather.
But in addition to the convenience of the July date, the event reminds us of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures.
St. Francis loved the larks flying about his hilltop town. He and his early brothers, staying in a small hovel, allowed themselves to be displaced by a donkey. He wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things.
Pets can be true companions. Many people arrive home from work to find an animal overjoyed at their return. Many a senior has a lap filled with a purring creature.
The bond between person and pet is a unique relationship, because the communication between fellow creatures is at the most basic level.
A relationship with animals can remind us of our role as stewards of the earth, and our responsibility to care for it. Some people criticize the cost of care given to pets. People are more important, they say. And certainly our needy fellow humans should not be neglected.
However, St. Francis reminds us that every creature is important. The love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, can draw us more deeply into a respect for all life, into the wonder of our common relationship to our God.
The blessing of the animals by name means that health, healing and life are being mediated from God for the benefit of the animal in its relationship with its human partners.