Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!

Catholic Peekskill celebrated the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi this past Saturday when nearly 50 pets—dogs, cats, birds and even a gecko—gathered along with their owners to receive a special blessing in honor of this patron saint of animals and ecology. 
St. Francis was one of seven children born to a wealthy family in the town of Assisi, Italy in 1182.  His early life was characterized by this privilege but, while serving as a soldier, it is said he had a vision which directed him back to his hometown where he then renounced all his worldliness and went about “emptying” his life, trying in every way possible but, most especially, in his solidarity with the poor, to imitate the life of Christ.
St. Francis founded both the Franciscan Order as well as the Poor Clare Order of religious sisters.  And, we in Catholic Peekskill, have a connection to St. Francis through our friends the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart who helped to found our beloved Assumption School in 1907.
Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis speak of his love of animals.  He believed that all of nature was a mirror of God and called all creatures his “brothers and sisters.” 
And, so, the Church gives us the wonderful tradition of blessing our pets.  Would you believe we can learn a lot from our pets about how to imitate Christ in our own lives?  How about unconditional love?  How about companionship both quiet and playful?  How about service?  How about obedience?  All characteristics of the pet/owner relationship. 
St. Francis taught us so much about peace, forgiveness and the love that transcends all others—the love of Christ!

The Blessing of the Animals
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.”

Special thanks to Jim Brooks and Audrey Warn for these photos!