D.C. Church Welcomes All Kinds of Pets to Blessing of the Animals
Monday, August 31, 2009
Jacqueline Penrod tightly cradled her cat, Sushi, whose ailments over the past year have included pneumonia, a broken right back paw and a prolonged respiratory virus.
Penrod had sought out veterinarians and medicines, but on Sunday, she went to All Souls Unitarian Church in the District seeking divine intervention for 6-year-old Sushi, a Ragdoll cat, as the church opened its doors for the second annual Blessing of the Animals.
"We didn't think he was going to make it," Penrod, 43, said as she sat in a pew. "I wanted him to have a blessing."
Hundreds of pet owners filled All Souls for the service, held in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment.
"It's a way for us to honor that we are all part of God's creation," the Rev. Robert M. Hardies, senior minister of All Souls, said of the service.
The All Souls service, one of various pet blessings held at churches across the country, lasted about an hour and half and ended with a call to the altar of all pets in need of prayer.
"Dogs to the right and everyone else to the left," a church worker announced just before the long prayer lines formed.
Cats, dogs, rabbits, turtles, birds and even hermit crabs and their owners made their way to the altar to be blessed. "We want to do as Saint Francis did and call the animals by their name," said Hardies, 37.
"Brother Sushi," a church official said as the cat received his blessing. The cat's pale blue eyes and gray coat relaxed in his owner's arms.
Jackson Miller, 8, and his sister Miranda Schuyler, 5, brought their unnamed pet hermit crabs to church. Last year, they brought different hermit crabs, which died a few weeks after the pet blessing ceremony.
"I'm hoping they stay alive for the next blessing," Jackson said of this year's crabs.