Pets play special role in owners' salvation, Franciscan friar says of animal blessing on feast of St. Francis of Assisi
BERKLEY — There were a few barks during the benedictions, but mostly everyone was a “good boy” on the grounds of Our Lady of La Salette Parish in Berkley on Oct. 4.
Man’s best friend became man’s “blessed” friend during the parish’s annual blessing of the pets in front of the church on Coolidge Highway, as a dozen or so pet owners and their furry friends received a blessing from Deacon Clement Stankiewicz in commemoration of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
“One year, a family brought a horse to this,” Deacon Stankiewicz said. “The custom of blessing animals is a reminder that all of creation is a sign of God’s love for us. The Lord created all of these (animals) and said they were good.”
Deacon Stankiewicz read from the book of Genesis about how God entrusted Adam and Eve with the stewardship of all of creation. From Noah’s ark and Jonah and the whale to the animals feeding Elijah and the paschal lamb used for sacrifices, animals have always played a role in salvation history, Deacon Stankiewicz said.
“Pet owners feel they have this sense of ownership and stewardship for creation, as these animals become part of the family,” Deacon Stankiewicz said. “This blessing shows the Church cares about that connection. When we bring Scripture into play, we have a better understanding of where animals have their place in salvation history. Animals have their place in the world, and God gave the animals to us, to show how much God loves us.”
Bro. Michael Dubec, OFM, of the Duns Scotus Friary on the grounds of Our Lady of La Salette Parish, brought his dog Kody, a half-German Shepherd, half-husky mix, a rescue from the Oakland County Animal Shelter in Pontiac.
“St. Francis had a special love for creation,” Bro. Dubec said. “In a time when people had little regard for animals and creation, he expressed his love for creation with whatever animals were around. This has passed on through generations. For me, I feel the blessing increases the special bond we have with our pets.”
Recognizing animals do not have the same kind of souls as humans do, Bro. Dubec said that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care for pets, or how pets play a part in the salvation of their owners’ souls.
“Animals have souls, but not like a human soul, but still a soul, created by God, who said it was good,” Bro. Dubec said. “Going back to Pope Francis’ letter, Laudato Si', Pope Francis says creation is something God gave us as part of our salvation. So for us to have a pet, it’s a form of taking care of creation, drawing us closer to what God has created.”