Blessing of the Animals

Furr y and feathered animals pose with their owners and The Reverend Craig Hacker of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and Reverend Mark Canfield of First Congregational Church following the Blessing of the Animals on Sunday, Oct. 2.

By Leigh Macmillen Hayes

Special to the News

St. Francis taught that animals should be treated with dignity and respect.

Several local animals received a special blessing this past Sunday.

An interdenominational “blessing of the animals” took place on Sunday, Oct. 2, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bridgton.

The line of 13 pets — two- legged, four-legged, furry and feathered — and their owners formed at 12:30 p.m. The Reverend Craig Hacker, rector of St. Peter’s, and the Reverend Mark Canfield, associate pastor of First Congregational Church in Bridgton, presided.

The service opened with the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, followed by a reading from Genesis 1. After a few prayers and more hymns, the animals were blessed and then rewarded with treats.

The Reverend Craig Hacker blesses the oxen, Danny and George, at the White Farm.

Although this ceremony may be traced back to the 4th century when animals were first allowed into the church to be blessed, most now celebrate the event in early October on or near the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, well-known to Christians for his humble life and love of animals.

In the 13th century, St. Francis established a Christian monastic order based on simplicity of life, service to humanity and deep respect for all of God’s

creation, especially animals. He taught that animals should be treated with dignity and respect.

Originally, the blessing was oriented toward working animals, which were a source of food, clothing and strength.

Recently, Father Craig ventured to two local farms to honor oxen and bison with a blessing. At the White Farm in West Bridgton, he blessed Danny and George, two oxen who will be shown at the Fryeburg Fair and in North Waterford he blessed the buffalo at Beech Hill Farm and Bison Ranch.

If you would like more information, please contact St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at 647-8549.

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