By Sally Neel
Special to The PREVIEW
This Sunday morning, following the 10 a.m. worship service, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church will celebrate the annual Blessing of the Animals on the church parking lot.
This tradition is one pet owners look forward to every year, as they line up with their dogs, cats, horses, alpacas, gerbils, cows, goats and other furry critters for a blessing from The Rev. Doug Neel, rector of St. Patrick’s.
The day celebrates the revered saint St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, who believed all of creation is precious to God and thus deserves our utmost care and love. Offering a special blessing to our pets who bring us such unconditional love is a wonderful way to honor St. Francis and is a tradition that is carried on every year around the saint’s feast day on Oct. 4.
“The day is always slightly chaotic as the animals wait their turn to receive their blessing. Some of the animals are shy while others are bursting with joy and excitement,” said Neel. “We do request that the animals are on leash or in a carrier. We don’t want any animals injured or traumatized.”
Neel added, “Our pets are like family members. It is not at all unusual to have a dog visit me in my office at church. I always keep treats in my desk to greet these joyful visitors. I’m not sure if they are actually there to see me or if they are aiming for the drawer with the treats, but it is always fun to have them around.”
The public is invited to come and bring their pets for a blessing. The gathering will begin in the church parking lot around 11:45 a.m. on Sunday. Special prayers will be said prior to the individual blessings, thanking God for the gift of our pets and the joy they bring to us. Prayers will also be offered for the pets that have died and that are remembered in our hearts.
St. Patrick’s is located at 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. For more information, call the church office at 731-5801.