To some, having a pet is a blessing, so it’s fitting that once a year, local Catholic and Anglican churches provide pet owners a place to get their animals blessed.
Every October, St. George’s Anglican Church holds its Blessing of the Animals, offering a service for pet owners to honour their furry friends. The celebration coincides with St. Francis Day, which recognizes the patron saint of animals, known for his love of creatures great and small.
“He was known for seeing God very much in all people, top to bottom, but he often extended that to all of creation,” said the Rev. Austin Spry of St. Francis. “It has become a tradition in which we honour our relationships with our pets and all of creation around us.
“There’s this idea that God has created all of creation, and we as the agents of God’s love are not only called to love each other, including the poor and outcasts in the world, but also to love those in the natural order that don’t have voices and to represent them in the world.”
On Sunday, dozens of residents brought their pets – mostly dogs – to the Cadboro Bay church, but one four-legged guest didn’t quite fit the canine breed.
Edmund, a llama from Rose-N-Sun Farm in Saanich, made its way into the church, to the delight of everyone in attendance. Many brought out their iPhones to take photos as owner and trainer Marshall Rosen led Edmund before the congregation.
“He’s a regular,” said Rosen, noting Edmund has been blessed six or seven times. “We went through it the first time, and they keep asking me back.”
“We definitely see some wild and wonderful animals,” said Spry, noting the ceremony isn’t strictly for common household pets. “We’ve had Silkie chickens before clucking away in the church.”
The event is put on with support from the Pacific Animal Therapy Society, the Nana Foundation and Pets West. In return, the church collects donations for various animal shelters around town.
“It’s a way of us returning to the community some of the generosity they show us,” said Spry.
Spry said the Blessing of the Animals is well received by the community and shows there is something to the bond between people and their pets.
“I’m really impressed with the relationship people obviously have with their pets,” he said. “In many ways, it’s a way of saying thank you and blessing in return for the blessings that we receive from creation every day.”