|St. Mark's member Adam DiProfio, portraying St. Francis|
Photo by Kris Neider
A long tradition remains a vital link to a man known as Saint Francis of Assisi. Many churches across the world remember Francis with a Blessing of the Animals ceremony near his feast day in early October. St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Clairemont is one among them. And you are invited to bring your pets to this special service on October 5.
Francis of Assisi, Italy, was born in the year 1182, the son of a prosperous silk merchant, and the lad reveled in the life of his wealthy family. He went to war in 1202, was captured in battle and imprisoned. In 1204, Francis suffered a prolonged illness, yet set out again for war, only to return after experiencing a divine vision.
Francis found his way among paupers and lepers near Assisi, and denounced all possessions, to his father’s strong resentment. The friar joined the poor in begging at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Holy divination moved him to live in poverty, and he began preaching the Gospel in the streets.
The young preacher was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, yet he remains a most venerated
religious figure. Pope Gregory IX proclaimed Francis the Patron Saint of the Animals (among other titles) in 1228. Toward the end of his life Francis had received the required stigmata for sainthood—marks corresponding to those left on Jesus’ body by the Crucifixion, impressed by divine favor.
So why bless the animals today? Reverend Craig Dorval, Senior Pastor at St. Mark’s, says, “We do it to celebrate the joy and richness our companion animals bring to us.” Why not make them our focus in church one Sunday a year!
Furthermore, Canon Theologian Scott Cowdell, Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn in Australia, asks: “What if our human vision were bigger? What if we are to view life as a whole teeming creation, that humanity is not the whole picture?”
Cowdell adds, “The animals we bless share our homes, and our joys and sorrows. They sit expectantly by our dinner tables, take an eager interest in our activities, and some, undoubtedly, share our beds.” Are we not always glad to see our beloved pets when we arrive home?
Certainly there are people who do not keep pets for reasons of their own, including allergies. Some question why we bring creatures into our sanctuaries. Blessing them in church is an act of love and friendship.
So, come as you are, whatever your faith, and bring your beloved pets to be blessed at St. Mark’s on October 5. The service begins at 9:30 AM followed by the blessing of each animal. It is suggested that short leashes be used with larger animals, and pet carriers for cats and smaller creatures.
Participants will witness pet tricks and interact with trainers, and meet volunteers who foster and rescue, and others who promote the bond between humans and animals. A finishing thought: Your canine companion is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.
You can find St. Mark’s United Methodist Church online at www.stmarksumcsd.org, Our address is 3502 Clairemont Drive, San Diego 92117. Questions: Call 858 273-1480