“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
— St. Francis of Assisi
By ALLISON KENNEDY
With Monday the Feast Day of St. Francis, several area churches are celebrating by inviting pets on their grounds for blessings.
All animals of all stripes are welcome, as long as they’re secured on leashes or in cages, where applicable.
Proscribed prayers and scripture readings, and often songs, are part of the services.
“It’s about thanksgiving but also recognizing God’s goodness in creating animals,” said the Rev. Scott Winchel, parochial vicar of St. Anne Catholic Church.
“Animals play a part in our lives, and help us walk along as we move toward God,” he said.
St. Francis was a 12th-century friar who’s considered the patron saint of animals and the environment.
Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things: “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”
St. Francis was born c. 1181 and died Oct. 3, 1226. A Catholic deacon and preacher, he founded the Order of Friars Minor, more commonly known as the Franciscans.
Along with Catherine of Siena, he is one of two patrons of Italy.
Many also draw on the book of Genesis — the biblical story of God’s creation — as a reason to celebrate and bless animals.
Francis of Assisi was one of seven children born to Pietro di Bernardone, a rich cloth merchant, and his wife Pica. Pietro was in France on business when Francis was born, and Pica had him baptized as Giovanni di Bernardone in honor of St. John the Baptist. Francis’ father hoped he would grow to be a great religious leader.
One of the most notable services nationally takes place at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, where guests this year are expected to see a yak, a tortoise, baby swans and a macaw. In 2000, a camel made an appearance at the cathedral.
The following local churches are having special services Sunday:
Ÿ Christ the King Catholic Church: 6721 Ga. 354, Pine Mountain, 6 p.m. (The church is near the main entrance to Callaway Gardens.)
Ÿ Trinity Episcopal Church: 1130 First Ave., 4 p.m. Sunday (courtyard)
Ÿ St. Nicholas Episcopal Church: 5 p.m. Sunday, 69 Mobley Road, Hamilton.
Ÿ St. Anne Catholic Church: 2000 Kay Circle, after the 12:30 Sunday Mass. In addition, St. Anne Pacelli School students can have their pets blessed beginning at 7:45 a.m. Monday at the campus. The public is invited, as well.
Allison Kennedy, reporter, can be reached at 706-576-6237.