Bless this pet
Church leaders bestow blessings on the four-legged
Animals have held a place in religious history for centuries, but a less-practiced tradition has four-legged creatures at the forefront of some ceremonies.
Bethany Lutheran Church recently held its first pet blessing ceremony last month. The ceremony was planned for the summer, but Pastor Rory T. Scott said congregation members pressed to have one sooner, and he obliged.
On Sunday, March 15, he found himself offering blessings to dogs, a rabbit and a turtle. The ceremony was also a time for pet owners to remember the animals they cherished that died.
Most of the message had to do with pets and their relationship, or being a gift of God to us and deserving to be treated just as well as family members, Scott said. His congregation is planning another animal blessing service this summer.
Bethany Lutheran isnt the only church to embrace the idea.
Father Shayo Antipas of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Scappoose said that while his church hasnt done a pet blessing service yet, hes seen it at member churches and is considering the idea for St. Wenceslaus, in response to requests from congregation members.
Antipas said the practice has roots in the Catholic church.
For us, we dont do it, but there is a tradition, he said. Antipas, a native of Tanzania, said its not uncommon to bless cows, goats, sheep, and other hoofed animals in his east African country. St. Wenceslaus members may consider offering pet blessings in the near future.
The process involves sprinkling holy water on the animals in a ceremony, to acknowledge their place in Gods kingdom and ask for their well-being and multiplication.
We are superior to all animals, Antipas said. When God created the world and all the animals, we were [supposed to] look after them.
The Catholic church on Old Portland Road may be named after a Bohemian duke remembered for maintaining his faith despite political unrest and familial rifts, but one of the propertys most notable features is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis of Assisi is considered the patron saint of animals. His likeness is featured in the courtyard outside the church, with a bird perched in his hands.
The saints affinity for animals struck a chord with Lise Wenker, the churchs office manager, at a young age.
When our children get confirmed, they pick a patron saint, she explained. I picked St. Francis of Assisi. Hes the patron saint of pets and the environment.
She said each year for Lent, she was encouraged to refrain from an activity or take part in something to honor her patron saint. The tradition has stuck with her 43 years later.
This year for Lent, Wenker said shes helping foster an 8-year-old mustang horse and assist its owner in training and caring for it.
Wenker said its no surprise that people of faith are requesting pet blessings. Shes an advocate for it herself.
People in Columbia County love animals, she said.