The bird’s bright colors were the first thing that struck Father Dan Callahan, SA. Then, proof that the bird can sing.
“It was a macaw. A very big and colorful bird,” Father Dan described. “The lady who owns the bird had her phone with her and she played a recording of this bird singing articulate words. It was astounding! It was a very well-trained bird, and it did say a couple things, but I’ve never really been that close to a talking bird. She said that this bird entertains people, he loves people and his reason for being is to make people happy – and that’s what he does!”
The glittering macaw was among many pets Father Dan blessed on Sunday, October 8 at St. Anthony’s Shrine during Graymoor’s annual blessing of the animals. Four days earlier, on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Friars of the Atonement held a blessing of the animals for the Friars’ staff as well as personnel at St. Christopher’s Inn.
“It’s a tradition,” Father Dan said. “So many people told me how they’ve been bringing their animals here to be blessed for so many years.”
Father Dan blessed close to three dozen dogs, a handful of cats and the macaw. Some pet owners even brought photos and ashes of deceased pets to be blessed.
“I assured them that their animals are in the Franciscan corner of Heaven, with St. Francis and the animals he has bargained into Heaven,” Father Dan said.
St. Francis recognized the special relationship between humankind and animals. He called all animals “brothers and sisters,” and wrote “The Canticle of the Creation,” a poem dedicated to all living creatures.
Society of the Atonement founder Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, SA, also acknowledged the importance of the relationship between us as humans and animals.
“I think people are aware of the interaction between animals and the praising of God with all the creatures,” Father Dan said. “I used the Psalms to praise God for all of His creatures, and bless them for taking care of their animals. Our animals are a wonderful thing, because as we care for them, we get a little picture of how God cares for us. As we love and care for them, God loves and cares for us.”
Father Dennis Polanco, SA, President and Spiritual Director at St. Christopher’s Inn, led a short prayer service and blessed more than half a dozen dogs at the animal blessing held at Graymoor for staff members on October 4.
“We gather in celebration of the pets that we have brought here today,” Father Dennis said. “They are a wonderful blessing to us all. With paws, whiskers, wings and fins, they offer praise to their Creator. Our Higher Power, you call us to embrace and care for them. May we show kindness, love and grace to all creatures everywhere. They live in every land; they fill the sky and the seas. Creator, you give us your command to be good stewards and love them tenderly. By loving creatures you hold dear, we offer your praise.”
The service included scripture readings and a short closing hymn.