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July 31, 2014

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Ziggy the cat gets blessed from the comfort of his carrier at the Blessing of the Animals in Blowing Rock on Sunday. Father Rick Lawler blessed him in front of his owners, Leslie Temple and daughter Jo Hill. Photo by Jeff Eason

Originally published: 2013-10-10 09:11:28
Last modified: 2013-10-10 09:12:13

Blessed are the beasts

St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church in Blowing Rock holds its annual Blessing of the Animals on the first Sunday of each October.

In past years, those Sundays have experienced chilly rain and even snow. This past Sunday, however, pet lovers and their companions enjoyed beautiful fall weather with temperatures in the high 70s.

Approximately 50 dogs and eight cats were blessed during the service. Fathers Richard C. Lawler, rector, and Samuel Tallman, curate, better known as Father Rick and Father Sam, met with each pet and pet owner  to give them their blessing.

The annual event began with the singing of the traditional hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”

Then, the outdoor congregation gave thanks in prayer for the creatures of the earth.

Genesis 1:20-27 was read, which says, “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, and after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and the creeping thing, and the beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

“And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Among the cats, some of them nervous in the presence of so many dogs, was Uncle Buck, adopted as a stray by Lynn Lytle.

He looked out of his backpack carrier as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

“When he showed up at my doorstep back in April, he had no hair, had a hurt leg and he was emaciated,” Lytle said. “With the proper food and medication he has really shown a big improvement. He even has been to a dermatologist. And now he is going to church.”

During the Blessing of the Animals, pet owners were asked to call out the names of favorite pets which had died, and were urged to remember them and the joy they gave.
The annual St. Mary of the Hills Blessing of the Animals is inspired by St. Francis of Assissi, who died on Oct. 4, 1226. He was called a “brother of the poor and lover of all God’s creatures.”

“One of the boldest and most spirited figures in history, it is a shame that Francis is sometimes dismissed as simply a quiet ‘bird watcher’ and ‘patron of the birdbath,’” said the text of the program for the Blessing of the Animals.

“He was one of the greatest preachers of all time. His concern with poverty and ecology give him a strikingly modern quality. Although he was a wealthy cloth merchant’s son, he gave all he had to help the poor and the lepers and was contented with only the barest necessities for himself and the ‘little brothers’ who joined him in his revolutionary new lifestyle.

“He vigorously opposed the abuse of political power, even when it was wielded by the bishop of Rome,” according to the program.

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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