A brown cow, black dog, spotted ducks, white ferret, striped cats and a green parakeet grace the U.S. bishops’ Facebook page (www.facebook.com/usccb) in time for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4.
To mark the feast of the animal-loving saint, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) posted photos of pets submitted by USCCB Facebook fans as well as a blessing of the animals prayer from the USCCB’s Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Background music on the site is songwriter Marty Haugen’s “Canticle of the Sun,” also known as “Praise of the Creatures.” The original hymn is ascribed to St. Francis, the 13th century friar and preacher and one of the most popular saints in Christianity.
Animal lovers can bless their pets using the prayer which asks God: “Reach out with your right hand and grant that these animals may serve our needs and that your bounty in the resources of this life may move us to seek more confidently the goal of eternal life.”
Catholic and Anglican parishes around the country often highlight the feast by holding a blessing of the animals at churches on or around the feast day, which this year falls on a Tuesday.
Pictures on the website indicate the comfort and joy pets bring their owners. They include a picture of a dog lying atop his owner’s hospital bed, a snapshot of Green Bay, Wisconsin Bishop David Ricken’s dog wearing a Packers jersey, and Los Angeles auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala with his pet birds.
St. Francis founded the men’s Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. He is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment and with Saint Catherine of Siena is one of the two patron saints of Italy.