A chorus of animal voices joined the Sunday morning hymns at St. John’s Cathedral as parishioners brought their pets to receive blessings for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
Churchgoers commemorated the life of Assisi, the patron saint of animals who is remembered for his compassion for the poor and love for nature, by bringing their dogs, cats, birds, and rats to church to be blessed as part of the Blessing of the Animals, a nationwide event that is practiced annually in churches around Spokane.
Parishioner Nancy Cartwright said she would have liked to bring her cats to the Sunday service, but they likely wouldn’t be able to handle the other animals or the new environment, so she brought mobile photos instead. She said St. Francis wanted to spread peace and love to all creation and if she brought her cats, Miss Hootie and Purll, to church, she doubted it would have been a peaceful morning.
Rev. Kristi Philip, whose four-year-old mini Australian Sheppard Bella waited under the pews during the service, said they used to bless animals for the Feast of St. Francis outside on Saturdays, but recently, they have been including it in their regular service once a year.
“I kind of like the chaos,” she said.
She said pets are a natural extension of most people’s love of creation and is often their first opportunity to learn to co-exist with other species. Philip said she has blessed a chicken while at a different parish and heard that a previous church goer brought their horse to be blessed at St. John’s Cathedral.
She said the animals at the Cathedral this year, which were mostly dogs, sat patiently through the service in the same pews as a cat, rats and birds.
“That’s very Franciscan,” she said.
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