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Christian Love for Animals

"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."

http://www.aswa.org.uk/  

http://www.dfms.org/ 

http://www.gracechurchamherst.org/sermons/1lent03.htm 

http://thewitness.org/archive/sept2002/arbogast.html 

St. Francis

Why do we bless pets on this day?

St. Francis of Assisi lived in Italy in the 12th century. Having grown up in a wealthy family, he renounced his wealth and worldly possessions and lived very simply.

When Francis spoke, everyone listened, including the animals. He told the animals that Jesus loved them too. There is a story of a wolf who lived in the town of Gubbio. The wolf came into the town each evening, frightening the inhabitants or eating them. Francis went to speak to "Brother Wolf" and found out that the wolf was hungry. Francis explained that that was not reason enough to eat people and their pets or to terrorize them. The wolf became very gentle, the people fed him and he gave the children in the town rides on his back.

Francis brought us the Christmas creche. In the town of Gubbio, he built a small outdoor stable and put people in the stable to portray Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels. Then he added the animals - cow, donkey, sheep, etc. When asked, Francis said, "Surely the animals praised the new Messiah just as the shepherds and angels did."

And so in honor of this blessed saint of the church we gather today with our animals - our pets, our service animals, police dogs and horses, zoo animals and all God’s creatures and give thanks for what they do for us and for what they mean to us.

Bring forth living creatures of every kind; cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." and it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind.

and God saw that it was good."

A passage from Isaiah
of the Peaceable Kingdom, where:

The wolf shall also dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf with the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox…they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Animal Blessing Services*


Opening Sentence:
How many are your works O God! In wisdom you made them all.

-Psalm 104:24

Confession:

Let us confess our sins to God:

Almighty God and Creator of all,

You have chosen humankind for a position of special responsibility in your world;

We have failed to respond in awe at Your wonders;

We have misinterpreted our role of dominion and abused our power.

We have caused the animal kingdom needless suffering.

Forgive us as we seek anew the vision which You set before us,

And as we strive to respond to Your call;

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Absolution:
Almighty God grant you forgiveness of your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ and the strength and grace to respond with love to all God’s creation.

Collect:

O Lord, give us humility to thank You for the creation of animals, who can show affection which sometimes puts us to shame. Enlarge our respect for these your creatures, of whom we are the guardians. And give us a sense of responsibility towards all your creation, for Jesus Christ’s sake, Amen.

-A Prayer from Robert Runcie, 102nd Archbishop if Canterbury

First Lesson: Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Psalm: 104:1, 10-15, 25

1Bless the Lord, O my soul; *

O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!

you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

10 You send the springs into the valleys; *

they flow between the mountains.

11 All the beasts of the field drink their fill from them, *

and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air make their nests *

and sing among the branches.

13 You water the mountains from your dwelling on high; *

the earth is fully satisfied by the fruit of your works.

14 You make grass grow for flocks and herds *

and plants to serve mankind;

15 That they may bring forth food from the earth, *

and wine to gladden our hearts,

25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! *

in wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

Second Lesson: Romans 8:18-25

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Blessing of the Animals

(Animals to be blessed are brought forward in line and the following prayer may be used with or without holy water)

Bless O God, this your creature, and all who are involved in its care and protection.

Blessing & Dismissal

May God, the Creator of all that is, God the Redeemer of all Creation, and God the life giving Spirit, bless you all, now and forever. AMEN.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!

Thanks be to God!

* This service adapted from the "Animal Blessing Service" published by the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, UK for the Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare, USA. http: www.enaw.org.

Blessing of Animals
by Kevin E. Mackin, O.F.M.

As autumn arrives, people in various places may notice something odd.

A procession of animals, everything from dogs and cats to hamsters and even horses, is led to churches for a special ceremony called the Blessing of Pets.

This custom is conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures.

Francis, whose feast day is October 4th, 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.

Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. "All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures." And there was testimony in the cause for St. Clare of Assisi’s canonization that referred to her little cat!

That there are today over 62 million cats in the U.S. attests to the continuing affection we have for our furry, feathered or finned friends. We've even had a cat called Socks in the White House. Other popular presidential pets range from Abraham Lincoln’s Fido to Lyndon Johnson’s beagles, named Him and Her.

For single householders, a pet can be a true companion. Many people arrive home from work to find a furry friend overjoyed at their return. Many a senior has a lap filled with a purring fellow creature.

The bond between person and pet is like no other relationship, because the communication between fellow creatures is at its most basic. Eye-to-eye, a man and his dog, or a woman and her cat, are two creatures of love.

No wonder people enjoy the opportunity to take their animal companions to church for a special blessing. Church is the place where the bond of creation is celebrated.

At Franciscan churches, a friar with brown robe and white cord often welcomes each animal with a special prayer. The Blessing of Pets usually goes 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."

As the prayer is offered, the pet is gently sprinkled with holy water. Believe it or not, most pets receive this sacramental spritz with dignity, though I must admit I have seen some cats flatten their ears a bit as the drops of water lightly pelt them.

But the owner is happy, and who knows what spiritual benefits may result?

Usually the Blessing of Pets is held outdoors. But I remember it rained one year, and all were invited inside St. Stephen’s Church in Manhattan. It was quite a sight to see pairs of creatures—one human, one animal—sitting in the pews. The pastor joined right in with his beagle. Noah’s Ark was never like this!

Some people criticize the amount and cost of care given to pets. People are more important, they say. Care for poor people instead of poodles. And certainly our needy fellow humans should not be neglected.

However, I believe every creature is important. The love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, can draw us more deeply into the larger circle of life, into the wonder of our common relationship to our Creator.

 

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