When one thinks of blessing the animals, St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic patron saint of animals, immediately comes to mind. Many congregations have a blessing of the animals in the fall in his honor. But other denominations also participate in a special service for animals.
Rabbi Irwin Huberman, Congregation Tifereth Israel, Glen Cove, which is blessing animals at noon tomorrow:
Although there is no official mention of a "blessing of the animals" within Judaism, the practice has significantly grown in popularity in recent years.
It is easy to understand why. Aside from food and water, and a place to sleep, animals ask for so little and provide us with so much.
It is why, at this time of year, when we read in the Torah the story of Noah, children in particular are encouraged to bring their pets to our synagogue for an informal outdoor parade and blessing.
Jewish tradition teaches that once the waters receded after the Great Flood, God established seven commandments for all humanity. One of them inspires us to protect animal rights.
This and many other references in the Torah command us to respect animals. After all, they work for us and comfort us. And we are blessed to have them in our lives.
Pastor Bob Cederstrom, Christ Lutheran Church, New Hyde Park:
There is plenty of scriptural basis for giving a blessing, but not for the blessing of the animals, unless you go back to Genesis. As stewards of creation, we have dominion over all the animals, but also responsibility for all the animals. So, just as God blesses us, we would want him to bless those for which we have responsibility. We're all part of God's creation.
There is a precedent for blessing the animals that was started by St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. It is just a nice thing to do. One of the reasons it is nice is that animals bring such joy and comfort to our lives. They are members of our families. And, when they leave us, which one of my cats just did, you hope they're going to a better place, just as we do when we leave this Earth.
While we don't have the blessing service at my current congregation, I do go to people's homes and bless their animals upon request. We usually do it in the fall, around what would be harvest time.
I'd be happy to bless farm animals. Just think how different our lives would be and how unproductive farms would be without cows to give milk, chickens to lay eggs and all the other things animals provide.
Father Alexander Karloutsos, Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons, Southampton, and assistant to Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, Manhattan:
We do a blessing in the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year, which is Sept. 1. Our Orthodox spiritual leader has deemed it a day to celebrate the environment.
We don't bless people's cats and dogs or other pets. We celebrate God's creation. We bring in farm animals. It also is an opportunity for young people to interact with these animals they may not be familiar with. They get a chance to pet them, feed them, water them. We want them to have a reverence for all life.
St. Modestus, who is known as the patron saint of domestic animals, like St. Francis of Assisi, wrote a specific prayer in relationship to the husbandry of pets and faithful believers and the pets they have. The reason we bring in farm animals is because people have cats and dogs, but few have lambs, ducks, chickens or horses. We want them to understand a little about caring for these animals. I lived in Nebraska, so you understand that the animals eat before you eat and drink before you drink because you have to take care of them. Children who grow up in an urban environment may not understand how dependent our animals, especially farm animals, are on us.