At churches across the United States, our furry four-legged companions or winged and feathery friends or those with tails and gills will be front and center for the annual Blessing of the Animals. Our cat, Valkyrie, will not be among them. I made a promise when my partner converted to Judaism that I would raise our cat in the Jewish tradition: hence we are waiting for that glorious day when we celebrate her Cat Mitzvah. We'll serve lox at the Kiddish lunch. Just lox.
The blessing ceremony comes on, or around, October 4th to commemorate St. Francis of Assisi, a patron saint of animal lovers. Animals have always played an important role... even in Biblical stories... in the lives of humans. Think of the ark and the instructions to Noah to take representative animals with him. Or the ravens bringing bread to Elijah to sustain him. Or the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem in his steps towards crucifixion.
I see the importance of blessing our pets as the reminder to us that we are all part of the great plan of God called "Creation". And these creatures, who give us companionship and unconditional love, are not only our pets and friends, but the love they give to us is a tangible example of the love that is always there for us. I've heard people say that animals don't have souls, but I don't believe that. I have looked into the eyes of so many dogs and cats in my lifetime, and each one of them has had a special something shining out through those eyes, which Shakespeare described as the window to our souls. Even if they can't speak, animals know how to communicate with us. And I can say that on days when I have felt the world was beating me up, the presence of an animal has done wonders to comfort me and make me realize that I'm still OK, at least in their opinion, even if everyone else is treating me poorly.
And so, to all the animals, and their human companions, may the Lord bless and keep you always and for ever more. Amen.