Have you seen the signs: articles and advertisements in the local paper for the special Blessing of the Animals ceremonies? It happens every fall and is timed to pay tribute to the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of all animals. (Apparently, Saint Francis was religiously re-branded in 1992 and became the patron saint of animals and the environment!) I don’t mind telling you that as a child, I held St. Francis above all the other saints because of his connection to the beasts; now I see how beastly it can all become.
Here are just a few of the sites I found regarding this traditional ceremony in which the faithful gather to equate the lives of dogs with those of people:
A Catholic organization in New York understands the connection and distinction between human and pet and blesses the animals for human comfort.
A preacher in Washington takes a more practical approach with several blessings and theological “thinking about animals” resources.
But an older posting by a congregation in Santa Monica offers the oddest sermon and blessing (If You Can, read it there).
And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, "But Lord, I have already named all of the animals in the Kingdom and all the good names are taken and I cannot think of a name for this new animal." And God said, "No problem! Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG." And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and loved him. And Adam was comforted. And God was pleased, And Dog was content and wagged his tail.
Neihc el? I guess everyone who doesn’t speak English has been neglected by the almighty.
Now don’t misunderstand me—even with my rejection of mysticism—every person who loves his pet should be able to celebrate that relationship in any way they choose in accordance with his own set of values. Despite my love of dogs, however, I see the danger in attempting to institutionally anthropomorphize animals. When animals are recognized as having rights by manmade legal convention, men begin to lose their rights (See “Dear Uncle Gus”, third question).
Besides, all this bestial beatification is based on a bogus bloodline.
The Townley Greyhounds: The British Museum
Roman, 1st - 2nd century, marble statue
According to the book The Dog: 5000 Years of the Dog in Art, the Blessing of the Animals was the direct result of the prohibition of prized hunting dogs from the church in 5th century France. The noblemen so valued their dogs that they would not go to church without them. Upon losing an impressive part of their congregation, the priests began to hold blessings outside of the church so the noblemen would remain counted as church-goers. This event was later retrofitted to the celebration of Saint Francis.
Now those were some guys who loved their dogs, not to mention some priests who knew how to address the conflicted values of their congregation.