By Brandon HENSLEY
What did 17 dogs, two tortoises, a cat and a ferret have in common on Oct. 2? They were all blessed by Father Bryan Jones at St Luke’s of the Mountains.
It’s called the Blessing of the Animals, and it happens every fall in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the 12th Century Catholic preacher whose love of animals is well recorded.
“One of the things he was known for was the celebration of the natural creation and his love of animals,” said Jones.
The feast of St. Francis is celebrated by Christians every Oct. 4, commemorating his life.
The St. Luke’s service was held outside, as are many of the animals blessing services. After meeting with the congregation for an hour, Jones went around with holy water and blessed each animal and its owner.
Jones said putting God’s blessing on things is common, although he said it is more of a Catholic practice than Protestant.
“You bless the food before meals, we bless houses when people move into new homes,” Jones said. “[We do this] to remember St. Francis’ care for the Creation and for animals.
“I think it helps highlight a lot of things that are important for contemporary Christians.”
Holly Stauffer, a St. Luke’s intern, brought her 7-year-old terrier Scooter to be blessed, but she was glad to see various types of pets also at the church courtyard.
“We had a greater array of animals this year, which was nice,” she said.
Stauffer said it is important to recognize animals and their importance in the lives of humans.
“It’s an acknowledgement and recognition that we are all connected,” she said. “I think we have misinterpreted Genesis 1 and God’s commandments to human beings to have dominion over the earth. He said it’s not about power over creatures, but it’s living in harmony with other human beings and animals and the environment.”
Stauffer said St. Francis was “kind of a radical,” and his way of life goes along with St. Luke’s attitude.
“It goes along with our mission of radical hospitality that it reaches out to all beings,” she said.