For the second year, Faith will partner with The ARK of San Juan to present the St. Francis Festival and Blessing of the Animals (see 2018 StFrancisFestivalFlyer for details). The day is held in honor and celebration of St. Francis of Assisi and his timeless message of care and appreciation for the Earth and all its creatures. Leashed or caged pets may be brought in person to be blessed, or photos of pets unable to attend can be brought for blessings. The ARK of San Juan will bring a selection of pets for adoption.
Activities and services will begin outside of Faith Church at 9:30 a.m. Festivities will continue after the service as ARK of San Juan will feature an exhibit booth and pets looking for their “furever” homes. Refreshments, fellowship and other activities for pets will follow the service.
The Episcopal Church has long taken a pro-animal stance, reminding members that animals are gifts from God, and that people are responsible for being good stewards of the earth and all its inhabitants. In keeping with such beliefs, many Episcopal churches host an annual Blessing of the Animals service, when people have the rare opportunity to bring their pets to church to receive special blessings.
St. Francis Festival
Episcopalians celebrate the Blessing of the Animals on a Sunday close to the Feast of St. Francis, which falls on Oct. 4. St. Francis of Assisi was well known for his love of animals. Stories tell of him preaching to flocks of birds, dissuading mosquitoes from biting him and even convincing a wolf to stop stalking humans and livestock in Gubbio, Italy, where he once lived. At the Blessing of the Animals, people remember and emulate Francis’ example of love for animals and appreciation of God’s creations.
Pets brought to church on the feast day receive individual blessings. Following the individual blessing, the congregation prays together, thanking God for their pets and asking for God’s help in caring for them.
Episcopalians and Animals
In the 76th General Convention, the Episcopal Church reaffirmed that animals are part of creation and that humans must be responsible stewards over them. The church has gone so far as to speak out against puppy mills, factory farms and any other animal husbandry methods that cause suffering to animals. These positions are not new. Even in 1840, The Rev. Thomas Fuller regretted that humans had exterminated some species and enslaved the rest, writing, “We have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the devil in human form.”