October 4 is international World Animal Day – have you hugged your pets today? This special day is being celebrated across the world today and it has been ever since 1931. The brain-child of a group of ecologists in Florence, Italy, World Animal Day was meant to raise awareness for the thousands of species of animals on planet Earth. October 4 is also the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. Italian Catholics who declared the very first World Animal Day wanted to incorporate their religious faith into what they hoped – rightly – would one day be a global celebration.
This Sunday, many Catholic churches will be performing an official Blessing of the Animals, which entails a special prayer performed by a Priest with the chosen animals, as well as a small sprinkling of holy water. Witnesses insist that most of the animals – even kitties – don’t mind this small imposition. Participants explain that a whole host of different animal species, be they horse or dog or cat or hamster, are brought before the Priest by loving owners. Like normal Sunday services for humans, the blessing is believed to keep the animal safe and happy for another year.
St. Francis of Assisi is said to have once given up his small shack for a donkey who needed shelter. In the spirit of this kind Catholic animal-lover, people of all faiths and nations have planned special events to honor their animal companions, particularly those in need. Miami, Florida, is hosting “Save a Stray – Prevent a Litter Day”, while the Main Cathedral in Cochabamba, Bolivia, is hosting the “Mass Celebration for Animals.” The Church of St. James the Lesser, in Victoria, Australia, is hosting its own “All Creatures Great and Small Pet Blessing.”
World Animal Day in Pakistan involves a free visit to the veterinary clinic in Lassani Town, Faisalabad, while over in Taipei City, Taiwan, animal lovers are hosting a charity movie night to raise awareness for pet food banks. The Taipei City movie night is also taking the opportunity to spread awareness of the need for a pet blood bank, a game-changing idea that could make a huge difference to veterinary and shelter services across the globe.
Wherever you are in the world, chances are that you can find some way to celebrate our small furry (or large and scaly) animal friends today. If you are unsure how you can make a difference in the lives of homeless or needy animals, check with your local Humane Society or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”
by Mandy Gardner