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Archives: October 2015
Hundreds gathered during the Blessing of the Animals service at the Basilica of Saint Mary Oct. 4. Animals of all shapes, sizes, and domesticity gather together to celebrate all of God's creation and ask for God's blessing on our animals.
Photo provided by:Stacy GlausA dog poses on the steps of The Basilica before processing in to the Blessing of the Animals Oct. 4, 2015.
Photo provided by:Stacy GlausDogs peak through the aisles during the Blessing of the Animals service Oct. 4, 2015.
Photo provided by:Stacy GlausA dog looks over the shoulder of her owner during the Blessing of the Animals service Oct. 4, 2015, at The Basilica.
Photo provided by:Stacy GlausDogs lay in the aisles during the Blessing of the Animals Oct. 4, 2015, at the Basilica.
Photo provided by:Stacy GlausFr. Joe Gillespie sprinkles holy water on pets during the Blessing of the Animals Oct. 4, 2015, at The Basilica.
Photo provided by:Stacy GlausJohan van Parys, director of liturgy and sacred arts at the Basilica of Saint Mary prays over a pet during the Blessing of the Animals Oct. 4 at the Basilica. The blessing is an opportunity for pets and their owners to gather together and give thanks for all creation.
Photo provided by:Stacy GlausTravis Salisbury, coordinator of liturgical celebrations, blesses a therapy dog Oct. 4, 2015, during the Blessing of the Animals at The Basilica.
Photo provided by:Stacy GlausKathy Mellin Grubbs holds her parrot during the Blessing of the Animals service at the Basilica of Saint Mary Oct. 4. Grubbs had her parrot blessed following the service to prayer for good health and to give thanks for all our animals.
You may have noticed the sign announcing the Blessing of the Animals outside The Basilica. It occasioned someone to write me a rather unpleasant note. In it I was accused of engaging in sacrilegious behavior. Thankfully I have developed a thick skin over these past many years so it did not make me angry, rather it made me sad. How could anyone think that celebrating God’s beautiful creation is sacrilegious?
I was 19 when I first experienced a Blessing of Animals. I had finished my first year in seminary and was able to spend the month of October in Italy with some of the other seminarians. It was the first of many, many trips to this beautiful and mystical country.
On October 4, the feast of St. Francis I was in Assisi at the Franciscan monastery of San Damiano. Surprisingly the small monastery was not overrun by tourists. We gathered in the courtyard with some of the young friars and a number of neighboring farmers for the celebration of the Eucharist. To my surprise and delight we were also joined by several animals. The early October weather was glorious. Being a romantic, I imagined myself in Zefferelli’s movie Brother Sun, and Sister Moon. At the end of Mass the priest asked all of us to extend our hands in prayer over the animals and he led us in a beautiful blessing. I will never forget the experience. It almost caused me to join the Franciscans.
When I started working at The Basilica I learned that our community had been Blessing animals for many years. And though I delighted in this I was a bit uneasy with bringing the animals into the church for the service. But since this had been the custom at The Basilica I went with the flow and found it to be beautiful.
Catholics have such a rich tradition of blessing people, animals and all sorts of things. I thought of sending the table of contents of our Book of Blessings to the author of the above mentioned e-mail. He might be surprised to learn that we not only bless animals, we also bless athletic fields; all sorts of machinery; fishing gear; motor bikes; shopping malls and communications centers to name just a few. Catholics like to bless things. As a matter of fact, Catholics REALLY like to bless things.
But what does it mean when we bless someone or something? I will spare you the etymology of the English word as it is a bit too bloody. Let’s just look at benedicere which is the Latin for the English verb “to bless.” Benedicere is a contraction of two words bene and dicere meaning “to speak well” or “to speak words of good wishes.”
Thus, when we bless someone or something we engage into a two-fold action: first, we bless and thank God for the many gifts bestowed on us; second, we ask God to hallow that, which is being blessed. Therefore, when we bless animals-recognizing their sacred place in creation-we thank God for the gift of animals and we ask God to protect them. This is a most sacred, and assuredly not a sacrilegious act, don’t you think?