Today was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, so we attended a blessing of the animals at Church in the City. Our contribution? Our puppy, Blue, recently acquired from the Little Blue State Humane Association* and a young bearded dragon, still small enough to be carried in a large jar, but destined to grow to a couple of feet in length. We left one dog, two geckos, a cat, a hamster, and numerous fish and guinea hens at home.
Our interim rector has a way with children and animals. She didn’t flinch when our eight-year-old son and his friend ran up to the old high altar to inspect the timpani. Nor did she flinch when she blessed our nameless bearded dragon and stroked his knobby head. She blessed our puppy with such dignity that he temporarily gave up chasing the miniature pinscher seated next to us. But best of all, she blessed the animals one by one, calling them by name, except for the lizard of course. This pleased Garden Girl no end.
A number of years ago, I persuaded Garden Girl to come with me to a blessing of the animals, thinking that this would be a good way to get my unchurched animal loving spouse into the swing of things with us Episcopalians. It was not our finest hour as a church. The service was long. The dogs and cats growled and scuffled in the recently restored colonial church, scratching at the pristine doors of the box pews. And the rector blessed the people, not the animals, praying that the owners would be blessed by caring for their beloved pets. This did not sit well with Garden Girl, who worried that the priest considered blessing the actual animals heretical, until I reminded her that Episcopal priests have been blessing the hounds from time immemorial.
Fortunately, tonight’s service was nearly perfect, and included a reading from Job: “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind."
*The Little Blue State Humane Association is holding a black tie benefit gala in November. Blue has been invited to be on the host committee, along with Garden Girl and me. Tee-hee.