The day the animals became truly blessed Even teddy bears go to St. Anne's rite

October 04, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

Cindy Barry brought the family dog to the Blessing of th Animals at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis yesterday for one reason -- the springer spaniel has too much energy.

"We've had him 11 years and people still mistake him for a puppy," she said, with a heavy sigh. "We thought he needed blessing!"

Ms. Barry was one of about 50 owners who took their adored beasts to Church Circle for the service.

While pastoral associate Marcia Johnston led the congregation in a Litany of Thanksgiving -- "For the beauty and wonder of your creation, we thank you, Lord" -- a harassed dog owner hissed, "SIT!" and a girl hollered "Come back here," as her guinea pig ran across the lawn.

All animal creatures great and small joined the event, the first annual animals' blessing held in honor of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

There were low-slung basset hounds and yawning cats and long-eared bunnies. Alexander Murry, 6, brought his two stuffed bears, Teddy and Cocoa.

When Ms. Johnston reached Alexander's pets to lay hands on them, she prayed: "I lay my hands on you in the name of Almighty God, your creator and preserver, and ask him to help you be a faithful companion in hard times and good times."

Alexander beamed.

Ms. Johnston explained: "Most of us are here because we are able to appreciate the life of God as we find it in all creatures. One of the things we know about St. Francis was his ability to do this."

The saint, born a nobleman, believed that he found God in knowing poor people and devoted his life to "all people and creatures God has given us," the minister recounted. "He offers us a role model."

According to church history, the saint also possessed a special ability to communicate with animals.

The ceremony continued with a hymn praising the wonders of creation. Happy pet owners sang "Morning has broken, like the first morning", while crabs crawled in their cages and dozens of dogs strained at leashes and nosed the grass.

Mary E. Covert, 66, brought her Bichon Frisi, Prince, hoping the blessing would heal him. A member of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Annapolis, Mrs. Covert said she's had the dog for three years and worries about his cataracts. "I hope maybe the blessing will help his vision," she said.

But St. Anne's made no such claims. Said the Rev. John Randolph Price, "Blessings simply call to mind the gifts of God, that life itself is a blessing or gift. Pets are real gifts to a household -- they bring life, energy, grace and unconditional love. It's a reminder to all of us that we are called to unconditional love, and also of our stewardship as caretakers of God's creatures."

One woman had a less uplifting goal in mind in bringing her pet. "Exorcism!" she joked, as the large dog lunged at a neighbor. "We're hoping for an exorcism."

Mr. Price joined Ms. Johnston in laying hands on the animals. "If somebody has a snake or a tarantula, John will do it," she joked.

But perhaps the most exotic beast present was Toby, a 6-foot-long Irish wolfhound, standing 36 inches at the shoulder.

"I don't know if the blessing does anything, but it's a neat thing to do," said its owner, Ben Michaelson. "He seems happy."

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