Animals to be blessed this weekend
by W. Winston Skinner
Dogs, cats, lizards, guinea pigs and all kinds of other animals will be blessed this weekend as Coweta churches hold Blessing of the Animals ceremonies.
At least four area churches have planned Animal Blessing ceremonies for this coming weekend. First United Methodist Church of Newnan will hold its service on Saturday at 9 a.m. That service will take place in the parking lot between the sanctuary and the parish hall.
St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church will hold its Blessing of the Animals on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Gathering Circle in front of the church. The St. Mary Magdalene bulletin indicated the parish is looking forward to welcoming “a procession of animals — everything from dogs, cats and hamsters to horses and cows.”
St. George Catholic Church will have a formal Blessing of Animals Saturday at 11 a.m. Father Henry Atem, pastor of St. George, will lead the Order for the Blessing of Animals at the west end of the parish parking lot, near the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
Animal owners may bring pets and service animals for this blessing, asked through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals, whose feast day is celebrated on Oct. 4. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will hold Blessing of the Animals on Sunday at 4 p.m. The St. Paul’s service will be held on the lawn near the outdoor altar.
At St. Paul’s, people may chose to receive a blessing on behalf of their animals — perhaps bringing a photo of the animal with them. Names of pets who have died will also be remembered.
The animal blessing ceremony is closely tied to the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi. “Francis of Assisi is one of the most well-known saints in the world,” said Jim Stagg of St. George Catholic Church.
Francis was born near the end of the 12th century. The Catholic friar and preacher “not only founded the Franciscan Order for men, but the Poor Clares for women and a Third Order for lay people to follow his simple approach to Christian living,” Stagg said.
“His joy in life is exhibited in songs and prayers which are based on the Scriptures, and include special appreciation for the natural resources of the cosmos and world, with particular attention to the care of animals,” Stagg added.
Among the songs Francis wrote is a Canticle of the Creatures, which includes the words: “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”
Francis attempted peaceful intervention in the Fifth Crusade. “For his efforts, the Muslim conqueror allowed the Franciscan Order to care for the sites in Palestine considered holy by Christians,” Stagg said. “The brown-robed friars care for those sites to this day, almost 800 years later.”
St. Francis has been in focus during the past year, as his name was — for the first time — adopted as the name of a pope. The current pontiff, who formerly was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, adopted the name Francis upon his accession in March 2013.