St. Francis and the Blessing of Animals
Saint Francis of Assisi was a Catholic saint who lived in Italy between 1181 and 1226. He was the Founder of an Order of Friars, preacher and peacemaker, mystic, and Church reformer. Francis was considered a “light that shone in the world” by Dante Alighieri. He was canonized by the Church less than two years after his death, in 1228.
Francis was the author of the Canticle of Brother Sun, is known beyond the Catholic Church as a patron of the environment and the animals of planet Earth. Therefore, on October 4th, it is customary to make the blessing of the animals in his name.
What is the meaning of this blessing? Why should we bless the animals?
By blessing animals, the Church recognizes that many of them, by the Creator’s will, participate somehow in the lives of human beings. For example, some animals help human beings at work. Others are valued for companionship and enjoyment.
To bless an animal means recognizing and expressing their relationship to God the Creator and to human beings. Animals, as God’s creatures, inhabit the sky, land, and sea.
They participate in the vicissitudes of men and women and are linked to their lives. For example, in the history of salvation, animals were saved from the flood in Noah’s ark.
It is said that after the flood, they were, in their own way and condition, associated with the covenant made with Noah (Gen. 9:9-10). Thus, some animals stand out in their relationship with humanity and the divine in the history of salvation.
A large fish saved Jonah from the waters of the sea (Jn 2,1-11). The ravens fed the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17:6). The animals participate in the penance of the Ninevites (Jn 3,7).
Blessing the animals through the intercession of St. Francis, the Church praises the Creator for having created the animals as loyal and loving companions. Invoking the blessing on animals, we gratefully acknowledge our place and responsibility in created nature.
The blessing of animals through the intercession of St. Francis highlights their dignity to human beings and their responsibility concerning God’s creation. Animals are creatures of God; they deserve respect and consideration as companions inhabiting this same planet.
They are involved with God’s providential solicitude, and, by their very existence, they bless and glorify God. Thus, even though they are unable to sing like human beings, their very existence proclaims the glory of God (Dn 3,79-81).
We are Caretakers of this planet and the Creation
Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are naturally destined for the common good of humanity, past, present, and future. However, the dominion was given by the Creator to man over inanimate beings and other living beings (Gen. 1:28-31) is not absolute but regulated by concern for the quality of life of others, including future generations, and requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.
It is contrary to human dignity to make animals suffer needlessly and dispose of their lives indiscriminately.
This prayer can be performed on any occasion, but preferably on October 4th (Day of St. Francis of Assisi).
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