As a young child, my mother, sister and I made many unsuccessful attempts to bring a dog into our home. My father was clear that he would have no part in allowing an “animal” into our house. However, as stubborn as my father may have been, he eventually wore down (it only took us thirteen years to successfully change his mind!). Actually, while I like to give credit to our persistence, it was actually Rogi who changed his mind. As hardened as my father was on the idea of permitting a pet in the house, our furry, four-legged friend softened my father in unimaginable ways. Before long, my father was even sneaking table scraps to the newest member of our family. And when he retired, I think it was safe to say that outside of my mother, Rogi was his most loyal and trusted friend. Dogs, and all pets for that matter, have a subtle and unobtrusive way of creeping into the corners of our heart. And before you know it, they aren’t simply in our homes, they have a way of becoming an important and essential part of our family unit. Having had a dog in my home and as part of my family for over 35 years now, I know that an animal’s love for us is similar to God’s love, it is truly unconditional and always available. In fact, I know that it isn’t just merely a coincidence that GOD spelled backwards is DOG.
As we consider the special place that pets hold in our hearts, the Catholic community provides a special occasion in which to celebrate and honor the gift of God’s creation of all animals. For this reason, on Friday, October 4, St. Agnes welcomed to our campus, four legged, no legs and finned friends who collectively represent a special part of the lives of our students. Our annual “Blessing of Pets” prayer service was held on the blacktop are adjacent to our playground. On this feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, our students brought their dogs, cats, fish, hamsters, lizards, hermit crabs, turtles and even a snake and ferret to campus last week to receive a unique and important blessing from Fr. Isaac. And those who were unable to physically bring in their animal, brought in the next best thing – a photograph or drawing of their pet. While there are many beautiful Catholic ceremonies, the annual Franciscan tradition to bless animals serves as an inclusive ritual in which we celebrate and honor all of God’s creation.
After our “Blessing of the Pets” ceremony concluded, our students brought many of their pets back to the classroom for the day (excluding dogs and cats). Opening the doors of our school to these special members of our students’ families, serves as an intentional act of recognizing and appreciating the special blessing of life, in all its forms. More to this point, this faith education continued later that morning while during his homily at our weekly Friday Mass, Fr. Isaac shared stories of Saint Francis’ love for animals and the lessons of respect and care we can learn from this saintly hero.
The education of a St. Agnes student extends far beyond the rigor of our academic program. It is through the lens of our faith that we teach our young people to be the face of Christ and see the face of Christ, in all of God’s creations.