This weekend Kairos will be offering a Blessing of the Animals at one of our favorite little coffee shops in Silverlake, Mornings and Nights. Traditionally, churches (mainly Catholic and Anglican) have offered this blessing in conjunction with the feast day of St. Francis, October 4. We’re not Catholic or Anglican, and we live in Los Angeles (which means we’re never on time) so we’re doing it this coming Sunday.
The traditional blessing of the animals offers this prayer:
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.
If you look at the amount of money Americans spend on their pets, it can be overwhelming and even sickening. (For example, it was estimated that in 2012, Americans would spend over $370 million on…pet costumes.) And on top of that, I am allergic to cats, dogs, and bees so I’m not the world’s biggest animal love.
While that statistic about pet costume-spending should give us pause and call our habit’s into question, there’s something very good and life-giving about the relationship between humans and animals. So the idea of connecting with neighbors who care deeply for animals, to me, is not only a meaningful endeavor, but also a fun way to spend time being present with the normal routines of our pet-owning hipster neighbors.
Thinking a bit deeper, I think there’s (at least) two good theological reasons to bless animals and pets this weekend.
(1) Animals are, together with us, part of God’s good creation. With us, they are commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and as humans we are charged with tending and caring for our shared mandate: to be fruitful and multiply, to bring joy and spread life throughout the earth we have been given.
With God, we look out at creation and see that it is good so we bless the animals for the joy they bring and their part in the goodness of our world.
(2) Animals are, together with us, part of God’s redemptive work. Just as God works through humans, he also works through animals. Like the dove Noah sent out to find dry land. Like the donkey who spoke to a stubborn prophet. Like the ravens who provided food for Elijah. Like the wild animals present with Jesus in the wilderness.
Francis, one of the church’s saints, is remembered for his love of animals. He would speak to them, preach to them, and bless them, and in doing so point towards a world where animals and humans alike could share in and participate in God’s redemption.
With Francis, we can look at the animals and see signposts of the redemptive work of God, so we bless them for their role in the redemption and renewal of all things.
So, this Sunday, we’ll be blessing the pets. So far we’ve heard from dog owners, cat owners, and turtle owners that they’ll be lining up for the blessing. We might even get a few birds, snakes and hamsters, and we’ll bless them too.
What do you think?