First Blessing of the Animals Goes Well

On the afternoon of September 25 Heatherhope Farm hosted its first Blessing of the Animals—an event we hope to host annually.

We purposely did not advertise this event too widely so that we could keep the numbers small and feel our way into the best possible way of doing things. A dozen people showed up, bringing their cats and dogs. One participant brought with her the ashes of a stray cat she had been feeding that did not make it through the harsh days of winter.

Before the blessing proper we shared stories of the blessings that our animals had given to us. One told of her dog relieving days of loneliness. Another of the remarkable way her dog had saved her from near despair as she was attending to her father who was nearing death. A family told how the lively personality of their cat entertained parents and children alike. The woman who had cared for many stray cats noted one in dire straits and took it to the animal hospital. When they asked the kitten’s name, she could only share her habitual term of endearment for the fragile little thing: “Fluffy Tail.”

Of course, we at Heatherhope are impressed with what our sheep, dogs and cat can give to us, but events and sharing like this remind us that the blessing of animals runs deep and wide.

During the blessing I shared some observations. One can look in vain in the Bible for references to cats. There are none. And references to dogs are almost universally negative. Dogs are lowly animals noted for returning to lick up their own vomit. Not a very flattering thought.

As far as I know the only pet-like reference in Scripture is Nathan’s parable in which he skewers King David. He tells David the story of a poor man who has but one small lamb and treats that creature like his own daughter. He feeds it from his table, protects it and even sleeps near it. But a neighboring rich man with plenty of animals in his own flocks and herds, has visitor and steals the poor man’s lone little lamb. “That man deserves to die,” David declares.
Then Nathan, acting like the true prophet he is, points the finger at David and says “You are the man.”

Over and over the Bible recognizes that we are human. And in our humanity we cling to things—some of them seemingly materialistic. And over and over the Bible is telling us, God thinks that is as it should be. The only problem is when we let our appetites run away from us, and when we become possessive and controlling in such a way that we forget that all we have are gifts from God and to be enjoyed only through God.

God must be at the center of the circle of our lives. And certainly with God in the center we see that all animals, of the fields, of the forests and mountains, and in our own living rooms, carry wondrous blessings to us.

We thank all who participated in this years’ Blessing of the Animals at Heatherhope. We hope that many will accept our invitation to join us next year.
Following, I share the blessing that we came up with this year. I tried to give it the flavor of the Celtic Christian spirit we enjoy so much here on the farm.
I will also include this service under the category  “John’s Writings/Worship Resources” on our web site.

Blessing of the  Animals
Heatherhope Farm—Sycamore, Illinois

Invocation
L    Creator God, your Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.
C    As an infant he was cradled in a manger. He preached of the birds. He rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey.
L    He is your Lamb, taking away our sin.
C    May Christ’s Spirit open our eyes now to your power and presence within us and all around us.
L    May Christ’s Spirit open our hearts now to your blessing that flows through all the animals of the fields, of  the forests, of the seas and the air.
C    May Christ’s Spirit open us to the very special blessing that is ours through our companion animals.
All  Amen.

Opening Prayer
Lord God, all life is yours and all living things are holy. We bow before you in thankfulness for all animals, and for the ways you feed us, clothe us, and inspire us through them. We beg your forgiveness for every way we have forgotten that you, and not we ourselves, are the Center of the Circle of Life, in which you have assigned the animals an honored place. Guide and empower us to be faithful to you in the way we care for animals and live among them.
And bless them as they have been faithful blessings to us.  In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Readings
Genesis 1:20-25
Isaiah 11:6-9
Matthew 10:29

Reflections

Our Circle of Blessing
Introduce yourself and your pets.
Share stories of special sorrows over the losses of beloved pets.
Share stories of special joys over pet adoptions and things your animal companions have given you.

Blessing
The firmness of God strengthen your bones.
The light of God illumine your eyes.
The compassion of God flow in your heart.
The comfort of God ease your pain, and the pain of others through your touch.
The faithfulness of God protect you forevermore.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Final Prayers
Lord, you teach us of life and death through our animals. We are not afraid of shedding tears over our pets who have died because we know we share in your compassion.  And we know you will cause our compassion to reach far beyond the animals to the people you have given us to love. We thank you for those who have gathered here today and those who await us in our homes and neighborhoods. May we share our animals, our lives, and your love with them all. Amen.

Benediction and Sending (Attributed to St. Clare of Assisi)
Live without fear.

Your Creator has made you holy, always protects you, and loves you as a mother.

Go in peace to follow the good road; and may God’s blessing be with you always.

Amen.

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