NORWAY, Maine — In Maine, the Catholic Church is giving its blessing to parishioners’ pets.
The church says all pets are welcome at one of seven celebrations of Saint Francis of Assisi’s Feast Day during the month of October.
Saint Francis of Assisi was known for his love of all of God’s creatures, and the Blessing of the Animals recalls his love by invoking God’s blessing on pets.
The first events were held last week at churches in the Maine communities of Norway, Biddeford and Lewiston. Additional events are scheduled Saturday and Sunday in Yarmouth, Portland, Augusta and Westbrook.
Church officials say all pets are welcome, including those from members of the public, not just parishioners.
At the parish of the Holy Eucharist in Yarmouth, a “Divine Express” mailbox was also available for worshipers to send messages to God on behalf of their pets, including those who have died.
“That there are today over 62 million cats in the U.S. attests to the continuing affection we have for our furry, feathered or finned friends,” wrote Franciscan Father Kevin E. Mackin.
“The bond between person and pet is like no other relationship, because the communication between fellow creatures is at its most basic,” Mackin wrote. “Eye-to-eye, a man and his dog, or a woman and her cat, are two creatures of love.”
“The love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, can draw us more deeply into the larger circle of life, into the wonder of our common relationship to our Creator,” he wrote.
The typical blessing of pets generally includes the following prayer:
“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”