On Sunday, October 4th, many churches in the world celebrated the Blessing of the Animals. Pastors and congregants in thousands of parishes offered special prayers of blessings and gratitude for their pets and other animals. We also celebrate this day as the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a 12th Century friar, to commemorate his life known as the merchant, environmental, and animal patron.
Legend informs us that St. Francis loved and respected all of the natural world and animals finding them just as sacred as humans. He preached to humans and animals alike offering all creatures his blessing. Animals were naturally attracted to St. Francis, particularly birds who perched on his arms, head, and shoulders, then flew off after he blessed them.
The Blessing of the Animals was most evident in this year’s empty animal shelters!
We are reminded during this crazy year of Covid-19 and extreme natural disasters, of the preciousness of life and our natural environment. Due to the increased isolation of social distancing, pet adoptions have gone sky-high this year. Many kennels reported that for the first time their shelters were empty as people flocked in to adopt a pet, perhaps for the first time. Additionally, many workers who delayed getting a pet due to long commutes could now have a pet since they were working at home.
This has been a huge blessing for hundreds of dogs, cats, and other animals who may never have found their next forever home!
Now, please know that I frown upon the practice of adopting a dog in a country or place with strict Covid-19 curfews just to justify walking outside and avoiding a fine. Although it was a bit amusing to read reports about one European town with a curfew, where people were seen walking the same dog over and over again (probably made the dog very happy)!
But most people who adopted this year really wanted a pet. And, they discovered the joy of having a fur baby as part of their family.
Pets are a blessing for us as well!
Walking a dog is a blessing for us as well! Everyone with a dog is walking again! And people are not just going around the block, but are taking long hikes in local and regional parks and places they have never before explored.
Covid-19 and our dogs have forced us to get back out into nature and smell the roses! Since adopting my two rescue dogs over a year ago, I now average over 2-4 miles a day following years of a very sedentary existence commuting to my desk job. I feel so much healthier now due to my daily walks outside. And, I find that taking Charlotte and Georgia for a walk is also a wonderful bonding experience for all of us.
I seem to notice things in a new way–a squirrel scurrying up a tree; a hummingbird drinking nectar from a magnolia blossom; the fresh scent of cut grass in the park.
We walk rain or shine! I would never go out on my own just for the fun of it during 80-degree+ temperatures, in the rain, or in the freezing cold of winter; or any number of other excuses to stay inside. But I now go out each day. I have dogs who insist on a daily walk, so we go!
Not all animals are so fortunate . . .
During the wildfires in California, I could not help but worry about all of the wild animals who were harmed or displaced by raging blazes and smoke. The San Francisco Guardian reported on September 16th, 2020 that thousands of migratory birds were falling out of the sky in places like New Mexico and Colorado due to fires and climate change. Scientists will continue to study this phenomenon to determine if something can be done to help.
For the past week during a recent blaze in the Wine Country, I sealed off the doggie door again and kept Charlotte and Georgia mostly inside. As I peered out my window, I saw small finches and wrens in my yard flying from one tree to another. I prayed they would not be impacted by the smoke. To help, I kept my outside fountain full of running water so they could get a drink or a bath.
I worried about the farm animals as well, most of whom were rescued from the fires. But many fenced-in animals who were safe from the fires and living in pastures were subjected to horrible air quality and acrid smoke. This led me to think about some posts I had read recently about how inhumanely many farm animals in our country are treated often living in cages or other tight quarters. Tom Saler, Founder of Compassion for Farm Animals recently posted an article on LinkedIn about pigs in cages, The Quarantine Make You Feel Trapped? Imagine How they Feel.
I then wondered why do we feel so much love and compassion for some animals, but not other animals? We love our dogs, cats, birds, and cute forest animals. Why not farm animals who provide us with much of our key nutrition?
Now is a good time to think about compassion for all life. How can we better care for all animals and our planet?
I thought again about St. Francis, who loved all animals and nature and considered them to be as important as humans. He regarded animals as sacred beings with souls. See my post on, Do Dogs Go to Heaven for more thoughts about this.
Perhaps this year can be a wake-up call for us to do more for our natural environment. Most of us have more time on our hands than ever before. During this year of the Covid pandemic, we are not commuting; we have nowhere to go; we are being forced out into nature for lack of anything else to do.
As a result, we may begin to have a greater appreciation for simple things–the singing birds that bring us joy; the beauty that radiates from flowers; the clear skies and fresh air after the smoke has cleared; the sacredness of the animals at home, on the farms, and in the wild.
Let us bless them all! The Blessing of the Animals can become a blessing of and reverence for all life in all forms. I hope that this challenging time will promote greater awareness and increased compassion for all of God’s creatures!