St. James Episcopal Church Pet Expo and Blessing of the Animals
By Oscar Dorr, St. James Episcopal Church
St. James Episcopal Church, 1365 Viscaya, Port Charlotte, held its Blessing of the Animals recently. This unusual ceremony has been held in many churches through the centuries on or near October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis, arguably the most beloved of the named Saints, was born in Assisi, Italy during the 12th Century, dying in 1226. During his life he was particularly fond of animals of all breeds. His love of these creatures is duplicated by our love for our pets today.
The Rev. Cesar Olivero, rector of St. James Church, authorized the Blessing of the Animals ceremony, and its accompanying Pet Expo as a part of the Outreach programs conducted by the church. The Vestry agreed to sponsor the special event in order to make the community of Charlotte County more aware of St. James and its works. More than 50 animals, mostly dogs, but including one hamster, a parrot, one cat, and several canaries, were registered for the Expo and Blessing. At the conclusion of the Expo, the special blessing took place by Father Cesar. The traditional prayer offered is usually: “Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”
The Pet Expo was an opportunity for pet lovers as far away as North Port, Sarasota and Fort Myers to show off their favorite friends, and score up to four bones, mice or nests, in the informal judging contest. It was a delightful experience for all pets and their owners. The weather cooperated and the huge tent supplied shade for all. Food and drinks were available for purchase. Representatives of several organizations, including the Animal Welfare League, Therapy Dogs, and others, participated in the Expo, bringing their dogs along to show.
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