Dogs woofed and cats meowed among the pews of St. Luke Cedar Hill Anglican Church Sunday during a special service honouring pets’ contributions to the emotional and spiritual well-being of humans.
“Pets, in a way, remind us of God,” said Reverend Daniel Fournier during his sermon. “Why do they remind us of God? Because pretty much no matter what, they are so loving, and they continue to love.”
The service draws inspirations from the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi. A Catholic friar, St. Francis founded several Catholic orders, and scholars consider him one of the most influential figures in Christendom thanks to his teachings around poverty and ecological conservation.
Accordingly, Catholic and Anglican churches like St. Luke have been holding ceremonies blessing animals around Oct. 4, Saint Francis of Assisi’s day of feast.
Rick Saville, sitting in the second row of pews, brought his nine-month-old golden retriever named Sirius.
Saville said he brought her because she is the newest member of the family. So is Sirius aware of what’s going around her? “Probably not all,” said Saville with a smile. “But she has enjoyed the people and other animals.”
Sitting next to Saville was Laureen Wright, who was visiting from St. Alberta, Alta., where she is involved with St. Albert United Church. While she did not bring an animal, she might bring the idea of an animal blessing back to her congregation. “We are always looking for innovative ideas to get people into our church,” she said. “I think it’s a lovely idea.”
While it wasn’t quite seven pairs of every kind, Fournier and his assistant Don Walls must have felt a little bit like Noah as they blessed several dogs, at least one cat and the bearded dragon that Greg Pratt had brought along with his two children, nine-year-old Josie and six-year-old Charlie.
The dragon named Max was undeniably the star of the morning as several children crowded around the animal after the service to see it up close.
Perhaps the most touching blessing though went to Lammy, the snow-white plush toy of 18-month-old Finn. With his eyes wide open, Finn seemed calm and genuinely amazed as Fournier blessed Finn’s favourite companion, while his mother Jenni Lewis cradled him in her arms.
After the service had ended, Fournier shook the hands of parishioners as they left the church.
“It was so nice to see the church full of pets today,” he said.