By Erika Ivey
Sept. 28, 2012. For centuries, Catholic churches have been blessing their pets and livestock to honor the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. The High Country of North Carolina has been no exception to the heavily celebrated tradition of the Blessing of the Animals.
The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Valle Crucis will be having the annual service, for the blessing of pets and livestock on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 3 p.m. The event will be in the lower parking lot of the church, and will be open to people of any religion or background.
Many may be wondering where the Blessing of the Animals originated. Is the service a High Country tradition, or is this an event that occurs in many other communities?
St. Francis lived in Italy during the 12th and 13th centuries, where he became known for his love of animals and nature. In honor of his joy for the environment, the city of Assisi, Italy is lit by oil lamps for two days, Oct. 3-4. The oil lamps are brought from a different Italian town each year.
Whether man or woman’s best friend is a dog, fish, bird, or cow, all are welcome to receive a blessing from Catholic churches worldwide during this service each year. Reverend R. Allan McCaslin of Holy Cross in Valle Crucis stated, “Providing an opportunity to offer prayers of blessing and thanksgiving for animals is especially appropriate for towns like Valle Crucis and the surrounding communities where so many residents have pets, and where farming is such an integral part of our economy.”
While in attendance of a Blessing of the Animals service, a part of the 1956 Roman Ritual may be recited, “…bless these cattle and beasts of burden with a heavenly blessing, and guard and preserve them.”
In a time where pets have become a very influential and important part of the lives of many, the event may also attract people who are not Catholic. The service is meant to provide animals with good wishes from their owners and others.
It may not be recognized as a public holiday but the Blessing of the Animals is still celebrated by many as a way to make pets feel special for the day. It’s only once a year, why not celebrate the four legged, or the no legged lives of pets and livestock?
For more information on the Blessing of the Animals service being held at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Valle Crucis contact Ann Gerber at (828) 963-4609 or at [email protected].