Saint Francis of Assisi is often referred to as a lover of all creatures and the patron saint of animals and the environment. His humble life of stewardship is celebrated with a blessing of the pets every October 4th.
Saint Francis was born into privilege in 1181 in Assisi, Umbria, Italy. However, after fighting as a soldier and becoming a prisoner of war, he began to devote himself to Christianity and renounced his wealth. He instead chose a life of poverty and prayer, and patterned his life after Jesus’s life. He raised money for the poor, rebuilt churches, and amassed a following. In 1209, Pope Innocent III granted him permission to begin a new order called the Franciscan Order of Preaching Friars. He preached to all creatures great and small and loved and respected all God’s creations. He spoke to creatures as “brothers” and “sisters” and loved all of nature.
One day while deep in prayer and fasting, Saint Francis saw a holy vision and experienced a phenomenon called stigmata, where the individual takes on the marks of a person being crucified. He died on October 3rd, 1226 AD and was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1228 AD.
October 4th has become his official feast day. Many churches offer a “Blessing of the Animals” to honor his life, work, and love of animals. All animals are welcome; some even bring pictures of those who cannot attend. A short prayer, similar to the one below, is offered and the animal is then spritzed with holy water.
“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.”
Saint Francis realized our relationship with our animals is a very simple and heartfelt bond. Communication is eye to eye and as clear as if words were spoken. Saint Francis believed this pure bond brought us closer to our spirituality and our Creator.
If you are interested in having your pet blessed, please check with your local parish or church for more details.