Why Do Franciscans Bless Animals?

The Feast of St. Francis is October 4th! In anticipation of the Feast, the Friars at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Castro Valley CA blessed the pets of our parishioners. Why do Franciscans Bless Animals?

The answer might come from the book of Daniel in the Office of Readings today, the Feast of the Guardian Angeles, October 2nd.  In Daniel 3:57-88 we find a wonderful Canticle urging all creation to “Bless the Lord.”  Some of the verses are:

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
You heavens, bless the Lord….
Sun and moon, bless the Lord.
Stars of heaven, bless the Lord…
Let the earth bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever…
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord…
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord.
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord.
You sons of men, bless the Lord!

In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:15-17) we read:

[Christ] is the image of the unseen God,
The firstborn of all creation,
For in him were created all things,
In heaven and on earth….
All things were created through him and for him.

St. Francis recognized that all creation, if created through Christ, reflects and therefore gives God praise.  All creation, from the simplest to the most complex, each contain a reflection of God in proportion to their complexity; plants, then animals, and finally, what was meant to be the greatest reflection of God, humans.  (Humans however, chose to deform that image by sin, and therefore give God less than the perfect praise we were originally created to give! Thanks be to Jesus who restores us through Grace.)   However, St. Francis, St. Paul and the author of the Book of Daniel, all recognize that creation is a reflection of God, and all creation thus “Serves God” and “Gives Praise” to God, simply by being in existence!  Francis called all creation therefore Brother or Sister. He spoke to Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Bird and Brother Wolf, even Sister Water and Air.  We indeed are all connected through Christ, each of us, as Brothers and Sisters, humans, animals, plants, and all creation!

So, we Franciscans bless the animals on the Feast of Saint Francis to acknowledge their role of holiness by Praising God by their very being!

Let us pray then in the words of Saint Francis in his “Canticle of the Sun” written in 1225.

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

Join the Franciscans near you on Oct 3rd, to remember the passing of Saint Francis (known as the Transitus), see “Upcoming Events”, and on October 4th, at one of our Franciscan Parishes, see “Ministry Locations”.

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