About This Tradition
On Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis, patron saint of animals, Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church celebrates by inviting our animal friends to be blessed. This tradition has been going strong since 2006 and is a joyous occasion open to anyone who'd like to participate.
Regardless of your religious background. you may know a bit about St. Francis. He is the most popular Catholic saint in the world. St. Francis preached to the birds; blessed fish that had been caught and then released them; communicated with wolves, getting one famously ferocious wolf to agree to not harm the terrified citizens of a town; and was the first to use real animals in a live, Christmas Nativity scene. Thus, Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment. One warm afternoon early in his ministry, Francis is said to have wandered outside of Assisi and while praying alone to God glimpsed some birds along the path. He paused and began to speak to them. Soon, he began to “preach” to them about God’s glories and all the reasons why both humans and birds should be grateful.
How do we celebrate? We invite pet owners and their companions (in cages or on leashes) inside our sanctuary for a formal blessing. This is typically followed by a pet party in Riverside Hall. Both the Feast of St. Francis and the Passover remind humans to care for their pets as companions, not objects to be owned.