Asking the clergy about blessing animals

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Many churches conduct their annual "Blessing of the Animals" this time of year. For some congregations, the ritual honors St. Francis of Assisi, who believed in ministering to and blessing all God's creatures. For others, it honors the responsibility man has as steward of all creatures. Three clergy who take part in a "Blessing of the Animals" explain the meaning of this special service.

The Rev. Steve Foster, St. Boniface Episcopal Church, Lindenhurst:

The reason for the service goes back to a supposed conversation that St. Francis had with birds and other animals. Out of that conversation, he realized their importance in creation. For those of us who have a blessing of the animals, the service is not just in honor of St. Francis but also to honor animals as a significant part of creation. It was given to us to be good stewards of them. Not just pet animals, but all animals. They are all God's creations and worthy of his blessing (at 4 p.m. Oct. 13 at 100 46th St., Lindenhurst).

Pastor Joni Lupis, Grace & Truth Church, Coram:

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We believe that when God created Adam and Eve, he also created the animals. Just as he loves and cares for us, he loves and cares for them. Our "Blessing of the Animals" (11 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 20 at 26 Westfield Rd., Coram) really is a special service to bless each animal, each creation of God.

We want to honor animals' presence on Earth and our stewardship of them. Animals are something that the Lord has made, and it is our responsibility to care for them. It is simply coincidental that we have our blessing in October, when others honor St. Francis. We do it in October because it is cooler for the animals.

We also bless the owner and the relationship between the two of them. In addition to the blessing, we allow the owners to talk about their relationship with the animal. We have many people who come who have rescued animals. It never fails that the person talks about how the animal has rescued them, and how God has blessed them with this relationship.

Brother Mark D'Alessio, Little Portion Friary, Mount Sinai:

We're Franciscan friars. The "Blessing of the Animals" comes from the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi and his spirituality. He felt that we are not apart from nature. We are a part of nature. He was famous in his time for calling all of God's creatures and creations his brothers and sisters: Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wolf. He believed we are all children of God and all come from the same star stuff, the same sources. The blessing of the animals is an acknowledgment of that. Doesn't God work in wondrous ways, ways that are as individual as we are? The blessing is a way to acknowledge that sister pet and brother pet are a part of our creaturely family.

We have what we call a laying on of hands. (This blessing is offered all year with advance notice.) If special healing is asked for a pet, we may do an anointing with oil, just as we would do for a human. Of course, we ask permission first, just as we would do with a human.

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