Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, born circa 1181, founder of the Franciscans and patron saint of animals and the environment. Never officially ordained a priest by the Catholic Church, he is nonetheless one of the most beloved, well known and venerated saints of the church. You can watch the story of his early life in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. You can also listen to a song by the same name here, if you are so inclined.
Today is also known as World Animal Day, and coincidentally, Hug a Non-Meat Eater Day.
On this day around the world, many churches perform a blessing on animals. Not just cats and dogs and the usual household companions, but horses, turtles, tigers, etc. A wonderful slide show from around the world can be found here. However, you don’t have to be Catholic to honor and celebrate the life of St. Francis of Assisi or to participate in his Feast Day.
You can do your own blessing and hold it indoors or outdoors. The Blessing of Animals is conducted in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures. You can use the prayer of St. Francis, or change the wording to suit your own spiritual path:
Prayer of Saint Francis for Animals
God Our Heavenly Father,
You created the world
to serve humanity's needs
and to lead them to You.
By our own fault
we have lost the beautiful relationship
which we once had with all your creation.
Help us to see
that by restoring our relationship with You
we will also restore it
with all Your creation.
Give us the grace
to see all animals as gifts from You
and to treat them with respect
for they are Your creation.
We pray for all animals
who are suffering as a result of our neglect.
May the order You originally established
be once again restored to the whole world
through the intercession of the Glorious Virgin Mary,
the prayers of Saint Francis
and the merits of Your Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ
Who lives and reigns with You
now and forever. Amen.
Collect items around the home or make purchases and donate them to animal shelters. Call and ask what their current needs are.
Design and create an outdoor shrine for animals, either in general or for a beloved animal companion that has passed.
Winter is coming. Make plans to set out food for wildlife. Consider creating a wildlife habitat.
The Feast Day provides many animal welfare advocates, animal rights activists, educators, caregivers and animal rescue organizations with the opportunity to educate the public about abused and endangered animals as well as the beauty, purposefulness and importance of animals in our world.
The bond between human and animal companion is unlike any other relationship. It is basic, loving, pure and without agenda or façade. The Feast of St. Francis and the Blessing of the Animals attest to the beauty and sacredness of this relationship. Why not share this blessed day dedicated to St. Francis and his love for all creatures with your special animal companion?
St. Francis Prayer of Peace
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.