Times photographer Val Horvath got some great shots of the annual Blessing of the Animals at Church of the Holy Cross, Episcopal, this weekend. It is done at churches around the country in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is Oct. 4. I've never been to a blessing (my cat needs something more along the lines of an exorcism to be normal), but it always brings out the animal lovers looking for an extra dose of protection for their four-legged friends.
St. Francis is one of Catholicism's most popular saints, often pictured surrounded by animals. And there are some great stories of him communicating with animals, even one where he stopped a wolf from attacking people in a village. Because of those associations (whether true or legendary), he became the patron saint of animals.
I find interesting that he's one of the few inter-denominational saints. His humility and his calling to "Build up my house" has also been taken as a model by Protestant churches. I received an e-mail last week about a new book, "Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale," by the Rev. Ian Morgan Cron, founder of non-denominational Trinity Church in Greenwich, Conn. And I've heard plenty of people refer to his famous quote: "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words." Sounds like a model for anyone's spirituality.
Photo: Lucy, my cat in need of many prayers. Do you think St. Francis could have stopped her from destroying my furniture?