Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Those Crazy Episcopalians," continued: Blessing of the Animals

[Photo: L-R: Lou B.&friend; Luis & me; Riva &Suzanne; the Whites & friend.
So what's the meaning of parishioners' gathering at the church on a Saturday with their dogs?  Passers-by on Marietta's Church Street may have wondered at our Rector in robes, leading us in prayers and in readings from scripture, sprinkling us all with consecrated water, and placing a hand on each furry head to pronounce a blessing.  What good does it do?  Is this "blessing" some superstitious ritual to ensure good luck?   

We have lots of answers.  We honored the memory of St. Francis, who preached to animals, "using words, when necessary."  

For what good it does the animals, well, it was a treat for the dogs to mill about making friends; little Riva (Boston Terrier of my friend Suzanne) spent so much energy wagging and panting that she slept all the way home. 

We took this time to review Scriptures that show that God intended for us to care for animals, from Eden and Ark to the Sabbath provision of rest even for our beasts of burden.  

To some who asked about dogs' souls "going to heaven," Father Allen explained that the popular notion of Heaven as a lofty antiseptic place have missed the point made  throughout Scripture that God plans a new creation, as we say each Sunday, "We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting."  A new world surely won't be devoid of animal life. 

We Episcopalians begin our theological reflections with the statement repeated seven times on the first page of the Bible, that creation is "good, very good."  Any Thing in our lives can be a sacrament, "an outward and visible sign of an inner and spiritual reality."  Blessing bread and wine, blessing a marriage, blessing our dogs -- these are all "sacrifices," in the original sense of "making sacred" the elements of our daily lives. 

But most of all, I look forward to this annual event for its effect on me, when I remember that little old Luis, and, before him, Bo, Cleo, Churchill, Colonel and Missy -- have been blessings to me, and I to them.  The ceremony is a public statement of gratitude and intention, the true meaning of "celebration."  

We Episcopalians are crazy about celebrating every thing that gives life meaning.  

PS - I did not bring my two-year-old rescue dog Mia to the service.  She doesn't "mix" well.  As Father Allen said, "The Bishop doesn't allow me to perform exorcisms."

See my earlier reflection on "Those Crazy Episcopalians."  I'm sure there's enough material to produce a series!   Another article, Dogs are Poetry, reflected on spiritual connections to our animal companions.

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