Kathleen Smithson held Lacy in her arms as she approached the Rev. Daniel Cenci, who placed his hand over the dog’s hairy head.
Through Cenci’s words, the poodle-chihuahua mix was blessed Wednesday afternoon. For Smithson and her granddaughter Lakelyn Jones, God’s protection was needed for their pet.
“It’s special,” Smithson said. “You really love the animals with all of your heart.”
Smithson and Jones were one of several pet owners at the “Blessing of the Animals” service hosted by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Together, everyone sung hymns and read scriptures together. Cenci didn’t mind hearing a few barks. After all, it was the animals’ special day.
“O merciful creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make is always thankful for your loving providence and for the the good example of your servant Francis , who taught is to be brothers and sisters to every living creature on this planet, that with one voice all living things may praise you as our father, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” said everyone in unison. “Amen.”
The prayer for the animals also asked God to grant animals health, peace, and to give people strength to love and care for pets as believers.
Wednesday’s service was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who expressed that all people have a duty to protect and enjoy nature that God created. According to many stories, Francis loved animals and the environment. One account in a book written by Thomas of Celano, Francis once preached to birds and blessed other creatures. Some of stories involved fish, falcons, bees and rabbits.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II honored Francis’ work by declaring him the patron saint of ecologists. He also encouraged Catholics to follow his example by embracing creatures as members of their families.
After the pets such as dogs, cats and horses were blessed, Cenci talked about the significance of “Blessing of the Animals.” He also said the service was also a way for people to thank God for the companionship animals provide.
“The scriptures talk about God blessing the animals after he creates them,” Cenci said. “We’re here to reaffirm God’s blessing. God already blesses the animals, but we’re remembering God’s original blessing of the animals at creation.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.