Like many Episcopal Churches, Holy Cross hosts a Blessing of Animals each Fall. We usually meet in a public outdoor venue on or around October 4th, the day when St. Francis of Assisi is honored in many churches. During this brief gathering, people bring their pets. We pray for animals in all circumstances, and for their caregivers. We celebrate the beauty of creation. Each pet present is blessed, and those who have lost pets are comforted. All of God’s creatures, great and small, are welcome.
In addition, our clergy and pastoral caregivers are available to pray for animals who are ill and dying. We take seriously the companionship that Francis modeled, and strive to live conscious of the whole of creation.
About St. Francis
Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi, Italy, was born in 1182 A.D. His youth was spent in harmless revelry and fruitless attempts to win military glory. Various encounters with beggars and lepers pricked the young man’s conscience, and he decided to embrace a life of poverty. Despite his father’s opposition, Francis renounced all material values, and devoted himself to serve the poor. As a result, a community of men were drawn to do the same. They were the antecedents of the Franciscan monks.
In 1210 Pope Innocent III confirmed a simple Rule for the Order of Friars Minor, a name chosen by Francis to emphasize his desire to be numbered among the least of God’s servants. The order grew rapidly all over Europe. But by 1221 Francis had lost control of it, since his ideal of strict and absolute poverty, both for the individual friars and for the order as a whole, was found to be too difficult to maintain. His last years were spent in much suffering of body and spirit, but his unconquerable joy never failed.
Not long before his death, during a retreat on Mount La Verna, Francis received, on September 14, Holy Cross Day, the marks of Christ’s wounds, the stigmata, in his own hands and feet and side. Pope Gregory IX, a former patron of the Franciscans, canonized Francis in 1228, and began to build the great basilica in Assisi where Francis is buried.
Of all the saints, Francis is the most popular and admired, but probably the least imitated; few have attained to his total identification with the poverty and suffering of Christ. Francis left few writings; but, of these, his spirit of joyous faith comes through most truly in the Canticle of the Sun, which he composed at Clare’s convent of St. Damian’s.