By Karen Zautyk
They gathered Saturday at noon on the small plaza in front of St. Stephen’s Church on Kearny Ave., and quite a congregation it was. All ages, all sizes, most well-groomed but one or two a bit scruffy.
Many of them were somewhat noisy, as well. But aside from that, they were well-behaved.
This, in itself, was a minor miracle. When you have a teacup pup going nose-to-nose with a massive German Shepherd, you might expect some fur to fly. But it was all just friendly tail-wagging.
The occasion was the annual Blessing of the Animals, held by churches (both Catholic and Protestant) on or about the Oct. 4 feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment.
At St. Stephen’s, the event drew about 50 humans and their pets. The vast majority of those being blessed were canines, but a cat and a cockatiel were also in attendance.
Conducting the outdoor ceremony was Deacon Earl White, who told us beforehand that the feast commemoration was “a good day to remember God’s blessings so that we can come to appreciate that all Creation rightly gives Him praise.”
The day was also, the deacon noted, a reminder that we should respect animals, particularly those entrusted to our care. Since God gave man authority over animals, we also have a responsibility toward them.
(White’s reference to “all Creation” reminded us of the Blessing of the Animals we once witnessed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. At that program, the animals were actually in the church, and they ranged from an elephant to a crate of earthworms.)
The Kearny ceremony began with prayers, including a notation that “the animals that inhabit the skies and the earth and the sea share the fortunes of human existence and have a part in human life.”
White then walked among the flock, sprinkling every dog, and the cat and the cockatiel, with holy water — and none of them minded at all.