Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blessing of Animals

Sam at ChristmasParishes often use the Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4) as a day to bless animals. The Church says that “according to the providence of the Creator, many animals have a certain role to play in human existence by helping with work or providing food and clothing. Thus when the occasion arises, for example, the feast of some saint, the custom of invoking God’s blessing on animals may be continued” (Book of Blessings, #942).

Now anyone who has had a beloved pet knows that the role animals play in human life goes much deeper than “helping with work or providing food and clothing.” But the point of the blessing is the same. We give thanks to God for all those things that enhance our lives and help us live more joyfully and compassionately.

Don't torture your dog like thisIf you are looking for a blessing of animals, the Catholic Book of Blessings has a whole chapter devoted to blessing animals (Chapter 25). The rite of blessing may be led by a priest, deacon, or lay person. It can take place as a liturgy on its own, or it can be included as part of another celebration, such as Mass.

If your family wants to celebrate a blessing of animals at home, the Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers has a simple blessing that the family can do (pp. 174 – 177).

Here’s a prayer for your furry, feathery, scaly, warty companions.

God of all creation,
at the beginning of time
you gave us all the creatures of the earth to be our helpers.
And in your wisdom, these animals, like all good things from you,
became more than that. They became our friends.

After our long hours away from home, working or wandering,
in their barks and wagging tails,
we see the joy that you, our Creator, must have
when one of your own returns to you.
In our times of sadness and loneliness,
when human relationships become strained and broken,
in their gentle caress and quiet purring,
we see the faithfulness that you, our Companion,
offer to all your people.
And when we have become numbed by stress, worry, or boredom,
in their natural wonder and untamed majesty,
we see the awesome creativity that you, our Maker,
inspire us with that we may revel in the mystery of life.

We ask you then to bless these, our animal-friends,
that they may have a long and joyful life.
Keep them safe when we cannot be with them,
protect them from sickness and harm,
and heal their wounds.
When the end of their life comes,
grant them a peaceful death free of pain and suffering.
And bless us too, their human-companions, with your Holy Spirit
that we may care for them well
and be wise and gentle stewards of your creation.

We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus,
who is Lord of all, for ever and ever. Amen.