St. Francis of Assisi was made a saint of the Catholic Church in 1226 by Pope Gregory IX and his feast day is the 4th October. He is honoured on this day throughout the world and by all Christian denominations. St. Francis preached that the world and everything in it was created good and beautiful by God and that it is the duty of all creation to praise God and for men to protect and enjoy nature as both stewards of God’s creation and as creatures themselves.
The RSPCA first published a liturgy for the Blessing of Animals in 1975 and there may well have been others before then. This service was held for the first time in Irvine, Ayrshire on 6th October at St. Andrew’s Scottish Episcopal Church and 16 dogs and 1 guinea pig and their owners attended. Three Golden Retrievers, one Border Terrier and a Greyhound, all Therapet's, were among the congregation. Others were Border Collies, Lhasa Apsos and Labradors – don’t know the details of the guinea pig! They were all beautifully behaved and one Lhasa Apsos enjoyed the singing! A horse was planning to attend but it couldn’t get transport!
Everyone agreed it was a very good initiative in a relaxed and comfortable space where everyone could enjoy their pets and receive God’s blessing not just for their pets but also for themselves.
Refreshments for all God’s creatures were served after the service.
Service conducted by Lay Reader Linda Whitby of St. Andrew’s Scottish Episcopal Church.
Words by Linda Whitby, Area Representative for Ayrshire
Pictures by Michael Whitby