Every year on or around the fourth day of October, people from all over the world, including the people of Orange County, come together to celebrate Saint Francis in honor of the patron saint of animals, Saint Francis of ‘Seated. In remembrance of his love for all creatures, animal keepers or parents traditionally take their animal companions to church for an animal blessing.
According to the Humane Society, the first books on Saint Francis were written by Thomas de Celano, a member of the religious order of Francis who knew the saint personally. Thomas ‘books reveal Francis’ love for animals and his belief that religious faith and concern for God’s creatures go hand in hand.
Today, more than 3 million people a year make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Francis in the city of Assisi, revealing that he is one of the most popular and beloved saints of all time.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II paid homage to Francis’ love of creation by declaring him patron of environmentalists.
The Pope encouraged the prisoners to follow the example of Saint Francis by embracing all creatures as members of one family and offering respect, dignity and care to each member of the family.
âI hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to always keep alive a feeling of ‘brotherhood’ with all these good and beautiful things that Almighty God has created,â he said in his statement. “And may he remind us of our grave obligation to respect them and to watch over them with care, in the light of this higher and higher brotherhood which exists within the human family.”
Among the annual local animal blessing services, a custom born in the 13th century, is the Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Fountain Valley, which adopted the custom in 2006 and typically sees 25 to 30 animals brought into the service. .
âWe have mostly dogs, but there have been cats, parrots, birds, iguanas, snakes, chinchillas and even a fish in a bowl,â said Pat Erskine, church business director.
Father Michael Hanifin of St. Joachim in Costa Mesa has been blessing animals for the past seven years in the outdoor playground of the church campus.
âWe usually have 60 to 70 dogs, cats, lizards, birds, parrots and doves [brought in for blessing], said Fr. Hanifin. âWe have a lot of kids bringing pets, a lot of enthusiasm and excitement, a little bit of chaos – it’s all part of the ritual of interacting with other animals that they may be more hostile to. “
St. James’s Episcopal Church in Newport Beach rolled out the âgreenâ carpet for guest animals this year. About 185 people and 92 pets showed up for the blessing, some in wheelchairs and strollers and others for adoption.
âThis year we have a unicorn pony, an emu, goats and a pig celebrating with us from Hemet,â said Reverend Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees. “We have a synthetic green grass track that runs along the central aisle inside the church so that our four paws, furry, hopping, waving, swimming – yes, I even blessed the goldfish – feel welcome and very special. “
A special after church event in St. James included popcorn, face paint, and a balloon artist.
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