COLUMBIA — People of all ages and their furry friends gathered at Calvary Episcopal Church on Sunday evening to celebrate St. Francis of Assisi Blessing of the Animals.
Many types of animals were brought to the event, including dogs, chickens and even a desert tortoise. The Blessing of the Animals is celebrated every year in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi's love for all creatures and to celebrate the special bond owners and their pets share.
The ceremony began with a prayer — "Bless the Lord, all you his creatures, and forget not all his benefits." Dogs curiously studied each other, and a duck nuzzled its owner and nibbled on her hair.
To bless the animals, leaders of the church placed their hands on the animals and prayed: "May you be blessed in the name of God who created you. May you live your life with joy and bring happiness to those who love you. Amen."
"I love this service and take it seriously because I firmly believe that God’s world includes all beings," said Cathy Rosenholtz, interim associate for pastoral care.
"It means a lot to people who love their pets,” said Knute Jacobson, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church. "I think they bring their pets because they are grateful for them and want God to bless them and their lives together. It also makes us think about our relation to all of creation."
After each animal was blessed, Rosenholtz and Christine Cobb, chaplain to Episcopal Campus Ministry, visited with the pet owners, and Jacobson gave out treats to each blessed animal.
Lori Durben attended the event with her husband and three Samoyeds — Aleksey, Ivan and Zoe.
"Zoe is our oldest and had some health problems a few years back, so it's nice to get the blessing for her," Durben said. "To us, the blessing means God is watching our pets, keeping them safe and hopefully keeping them out of trouble."
Durben ruffled her barking Samoyed’s fur and added, "That means you Ivan."