Celebrating and blessing our animals

| 04 Oct 2012 | 09:37

— As been the custom at St. Joseph Church and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in West Milford, animal owners brought their cherished pets to church last Sunday for the Blessing of the Animals Mass. Held around St. Francis’ feast day, Oct. 4, it’s a celebration of all God’s creatures, and sometimes it gets a little noisy. But a few barks or whinnying here and there never seems to disturb anyone; usually the background noises bring on smiles.
Both churches were at one time Franciscan parishes. As the Franciscans moved on and the Paterson diocesan priests took over the stewardship of the parishes, the animal blessing tradition remained intact. After all, it is West Milford and besides the dogs, cats and hamsters, horses are not uncommon at St. Joseph Church.
St. Francis (1181-1226) was born into wealth and enjoyed the opulent life style as a youth. He had a vision while at war in 1204 which brought him home to Assisi. He cast off his earthly riches, became a street preacher and eventually founded the Franciscan Order. St. Francis was so in tune with the earth around him that he wrote poems, one being the Canticle of the Creatures. He loved all animals and the hundreds of people who turned out last Sunday seemed to echo that sentiment as they gave thanks for their pets, praying along with Rev. Steven Shadwell at St. Joseph Church and Rev. Michael Rodak at Our Lady Queen of Peace.