St. Francis of Assisi was known for holding the beauty of nature dear to his heart.
He would call all creatures “brothers and sisters” and believed that animals were just as much a part of God’s world as mankind. Subsequently, St. Francis became the Patron Saint of animals, ecology and the environment.
Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, SA, the founder of the Society of the Atonement, insisted that it was crucial to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis. Thus, each October, the annual blessing of the animals takes place at Graymoor, coinciding with the Feast of St. Francis.
This year’s celebration took place on Sunday, October 9.
Father Dan Callahan, SA, celebrated his regular Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Atonement Chapel at 11 a.m., before blessing around four dozen dogs and two dozen cats at St. Anthony’s Shrine. Father Dan first gave a blessing and then sprinkled the animals with holy water – many of them instinctively recoiling while getting spritzed – before each pet peacefully received an individual blessing.
“The people have such a devotion to St. Francis. It turned out to be really good and people were so grateful to have the animals blessed,” Father Dan said. “We’ve been doing it for decades and I can’t imagine not doing it.”
Father Dan said there were around 100 guests who attended, and each were given St. Francis-related souvenirs following the blessing.
“We gave them all St. Francis keychains or refrigerator magnets and holy cards – some of them still had their medals from last year,” Father Dan said. “It was all stuff that had been donated to us so we could give it away free. It’s another way for them to remember Graymoor is an animal friendly place.”