Monday, October 3, 2011

Blessing of the (Stuffed) Animals

The Blessing of the Animals is a charming custom many churches observe to celebrate St. Francis of Assisi's feast day on October 4.  Charming and potentially messy, especially if someone brings a horse. And no one should ever lay hands on a turtle without being gloved.

Deny a blessing to this fine bear?
Indeed it was the poop-n-pee factor that prompted one of Fr. Martha Stewart's infamous "not on my watch" soliloquies.*

But what if it's outside? What if parishioners plan it and clean up after it? "Not on my watch."

I thought my solution was the best: Why don't we have a Blessing of the Stuffed Animals? My fine suggestion earned me one of Fr. Martha Stewart's infamous "looks."

Years later, that parish ended up having a Blessing of the Animals. Outside. Organized by parishioners. By then, Mr. Oatmeal and I had left to receive our berakot elsewhere.

*Others in this category: CYO, Bingo, Boy Scouts of America meetings


  1. Serendipity or God-incidence, you decide.
    October 4th, 2009. San Miniato, Tuscany.
    Matthew and Ilaria were visiting their wedding caterer, and Peter and I, seeing as was Sunday evening and we hadn't managed to get to Mass yet, wandered off following the church bells, to find a Mass.
    Find the church, sneak in the back, sit on some incredibly narrow and uncomfortable benches, look around and notice... people in uniform, people all dressed up, banners, and an incredible choir somewhere, hidden behind the organ, filling the church with heavenly music.
    And then I realised:
    "It's October 4th!"
    "This is Chiesa di San Francesco!",
    "These are all fourth order Franciscans celebrating!"
    It was an amazing Mass, quite incredibly beautiful.

    And, seeing as how I didn't understand the homily, I had time to look around and see a fresco portraying a particular version of the Assumption of Mary that I'd been searching for a long time.

    Thank you St.Francis!

  2. I have blessed a pony and a sheep and assorted dogs and cats -- never an accident.

  3. Saint Francis Day blessings on Mister Oatmeal and you!

  4. I always thought the Blessing of the Animals was a peculiarly Anglican tradition. I must say I am glad to be done with singing "All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir" every freakin' year! We usually did ours outdoors, but we did have one indoor service, which was accident-free; plus no one ate anyone else. I took both of my cats one year. They were NOT happy about it.

    Speaking of Anglican animals, my favorite "Vicar of Dibley" episode is the animal service one, but not because of the animals. I love it for Alice's "I can't believe it's not butter" monolog.

    Speaking of butter...

  5. We did have a horse one year. Inside. On the terrazzo floor. Horseshoes can't get traction on terrazzo. And he peed.

    Every other blessing since has been held out in the parking lot.

  6. Believe it or not..a local group of Catholics blessed stuffed animals at the animal blessing thing last week.

    No joke.


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