linda taylor and blessing animals 018

Amy Lewis and her hen with Chaplain Davis Smith. Photo by Karen Reynolds.

The bond between a person and a pet is like no other relationship because the communication is at its most basic.  According to Kevin E. Mackin, a Franciscan of the Holy Name Province, “the love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, draws us into the larger circle of life.”

On October 3 at Rappahannock Westminster Canterbury (RWC) in Irvington, there was a large circle of pets with their owners, waiting to be blessed by RWC’s Chaplain Davis Smith. This was the 3rd Annual event held at RWC.

The blessing ceremony is a custom conducted in remembrance of Saint Francis of Assisi, born in 1181 and died in 1226.  His colorful life began among the wealthy people of Umbria.  Tragic life events and his search for his life’s meaning drew him to the poor and sick.  He is known best for his love for all animals and poor people.

Although the custom originated in Catholic and Anglican Churches, many religious institutions now hold the blessing ceremony on St. Francis’ “feast day” October 4.   The word “feast” in this context means an annual day dedicated to a particular saint.

Amy Lewis from Weems brought a truck load of animals to be blessed.  Two Dwarf Nigerian goats named Isabel and the Cisco Kid.  A Dwarf Nigerian goat is a miniature dairy goat breed that when mature is only one-third the size of a standard goat. Her Cochin and Buff Orpington chickens were also on board.  Cochin chickens, known for their excessive plumage that extends down the legs, are reported to be good pet hens, as they are tame and friendly.

Over a dozen dogs, large to pocket sized, received their blessings while their owners looked on.  Poodles were the most represented of the breeds present, while the “Heinz 57” variety had a good showing as well.  A few pet owners brought pictures of their cats to be blessed.