Shortly after Pope Francis visited the United States in September, many churches invoked his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, in services of blessing animals. From the spectacular event at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan to small gatherings of pets and pet owners on church lawns, Americans around the country marked Francis’s feast day, October 4, by blessing the animals. They may not have realized that blessing the animals is a recent and very American development.
Amid weeks with more than their share of bad news, one story before the new year seemed like a glimmer of light in the darkness. The world grabbed onto it: Pope Francis comforting a boy as he grieved the death of his dog, telling the boy he’ll see his dog in heaven. Except the pope never said that.
When you grow up with a grandmother who insists that you thank the hens every time you gather their eggs, gratitude becomes second nature.
I am not squeamish about most animals or insects. But snakes are a different story.
I am confident that the new creation will include animals. I hope that it will include Merle, my deceased smooth-coat collie.
What might God have to say about the creatures most people don’t think of as lovable?