Animals receive blessings in ritual

By Whitney May


Pet owners brought furry members of the family Oct. 3 to the annual St. Francis of Assisi Blessing of the Animals at the University of the Incarnate Word.

The ceremony took place at the entrance to the headwaters.

Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a longtime religious studies professor at UIW, had the help of her Arts in Christian Worship class for the ritual.

Kirk explained the history behind the ceremony based on a story about St. Francis of Assisi entering the woods and helping a wolf he found there, thus creating harmony with the forest and the people who before had been afraid of the woods.

Kirk and her class danced to honor St. Francis, encouraging the audience to stand and participate. Kirk and several students had solo parts. Once the dance was complete, Kirk recited “A Prayer for Our Earth” for “Our Common Home.”

Then she walked around the gathering to each pet, learned its name and blessed the animals as she sprinkled them with holy water, using a palm.

According to everyone in attendance, this was their favorite part of the entire event.

One participant brought pictures of his dead dogs to receive blessings for their afterlife.

Sylvia Rendon, who said this was her second time at the ceremony, came with her dachshund mix, Coco Pebbles, her mother, Diana, and her schnauzer mix, Sophie.

“If we can be blessed and go to church and feel like we’re blessed, then the animals can have that right as well since they are family,” Rendon said.

This ceremony was the third for Sandra Luna, who came with her terrier mix, Delilah, and her Maltese, Paloma, who is diabetic, blind, and has had some tumors removed.

Luna said she wanted Paloma “to be happy and feel blessed,” adding she believes “through prayers and blessing that Paloma is doing better, and will continue to thrive.”

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