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Tails of the City

Animals at Church? It's the Feast of St. Francis

October 4, 2013 2:00am (EDT)
A camel is prepped to attend the pet blessing service at the Cathedral at Saint John the Divine.
A camel is prepped to attend the pet blessing service at the Cathedral at Saint John the Divine.

You may notice four legged friends, winged pals and creepy crawlers at churches today or throughout the weekend. That’s because October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment. On this day or around it, it’s a popular tradition for people to take their animals to church to get them blessed.

Here are some places where you can do that in Georgia:

If your church doesn't host an animal blessing ceremony, the Humane Society can help you out. They provide a St. Francis Day in a box kit filled with books and dvds that give background on the day and advice on how to treat animals with dignity.

Biggest Celebration at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church

Remember the episode of the Vicar of Dibley, when pastor Geraldine Granger allowed villagers to bring their animals to a church service? That’s what really happens at the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York city during their St. Francis blessing service. Camels, snakes, turtles, owls and even cockroaches are among the creatures that process down the aisle with handlers and pet parents in an elaborate service. Nearly 6,000 people attended last year.

Check out the video of the event that profiles some of the people that come to the service.

It’s World Animal Day Too

Appropriately it’s also World Animal Day which isn’t a coincidence. World Animal Day was instituted in 1931 by ecologists in Florence to highlight the plight of endangered species. They specifically chose October 4 the Feast Day of St. Francis as the day because of his special significance to animals.

According to the World Animal Day website, here is the mission of the day:

  • To celebrate animal life in all its forms
  • To celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom
  • To acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives – from being our companions, supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives
  • To acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives

World Animal Day can be celebrated by anyone regardless of nationality, religious affiliation or ideology. Find out more about what you can do on World Animal Day.

All volunteers receive training, free parking and a catered meal provided by Carole Parks Catering.

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