September 22, 2011
Newburgh, NY -
Fr. Kevin Mackin OFM, president of Mount Saint Mary College,
blesses Tank Tebow, a Newburgh Police Department bloodhound, during
last year’s Blessing of the Pets.
Mount Saint Mary College invites neighbors and friends to bring
their pets to the annual Blessing of the Pets, Sunday, October 2,
at 12 noon, following mass. The blessing celebrates St. Francis of
Assisi’s transitus, or transition from earthly life, and is part of
Alumni and Family Weekend at the college.
The blessing will be held outside of Guzman Hall on the campus
at 330 Powell Avenue. Pets should be on leashes or in carriers.
For information, contact Michelle Iacuessa at 845-569-3217 or
Sandra Cefaloni at 845-569-3112.
Blessing of Animals
by Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, OFM, president of Mount Saint Mary
As autumn arrives, people in various places may notice something
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 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, more than 160 million pet cats and dogs
in the US attests to the continuing affection we have for our
furry, feathered or finned friends. We have a dog called Bo in the
White House. Other popular presidential pets range from a cat
called Socks to Abraham Lincoln’s Fido and Lyndon Johnson’s
beagles, named Him and Her.
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 for a special blessing. Church is the place where the
bond of creation is celebrated.
Outside Franciscan churches, a friar with brown robe and white
cord often welcomes each pet with a special prayer. The blessing
usually goes something 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
Usually the Blessing of Pets is held outdoors. But I remember it
rained one year, and all were invited inside. It was quite a sight
to see pairs of creatures—one human, one animal—sitting together.
The pastor joined right in with his beagle. Noah’s Ark was never
Some people criticize the amount and cost of care given to pets.
People are more important, they say. 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.