Today is the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi. Father’s homily this morning emphasized his humility, his simplicity, and his absolute devotion to doing God’s work. Father recounted the story of Francis hearing his calling, literally, at the church of San Damiano. Francis heard the crucifix tell him “Rebuild My church, which is neglected.” St. Francis thought He meant the literal church of San Damiano, which had, actually, been neglected. Not so. Francis was being called to rebuild the Church, which had strayed from the path somewhat by falling into the trap of luxury. This is why the Rule of St. Francis has such an emphasis on poverty–it was a response to the decadence of the church at the time.St. Francis is also revered as the patron of animals, for various reasons. At one point, he was preaching, but no one listened, so he preached his message to the birds. He is also said to have created the first nativity scene, bringing live animals into a cave to recreate the Nativity.
It is traditional to bless animals and pets on this day. At least, in the U.S. it’s pretty widespread. It also appears permissible for a layperson to use the following blessing for his or her own pets:
II. SHORTER RITE
962 At the beginning of the celebration, the minister says: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All reply: Who made heaven and earth.
963 One of those present or the minister reads a short text of sacred Scripture, for example:
Genesis 2:20a The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals.
See Psalm 8:7-9a You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yes, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fishes of the sea.
964 With hands joined, the minister says the prayer of blessing. O God, you have done all things wisely; in your goodness you have made us in your image and given us care over other living things. Reach out with your right hand and grant that these animals may serve our needs and that your bounty in the resources of this life may move us to seek more confidently the goal of eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Response: Amen.
965 After the prayer of blessing, as circumstances suggest, the minister may sprinkle those present and the animals with holy water.
Prayer Source: Book of Blessings by Prepared by International Commission on English in the Liturgy A Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1989
I used this to bless our two cats. They reacted in a predictable way to the sprinkling with holy water.
St. Francis, pray for us!