Domestic pets of all sorts were brought to the parking lot of St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Sunday, Oct. 6, to be blessed as part of a ritual associated with the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which is generally celebrated on or around Oct. 4 each year.

The Rev. Jose Thomas, parochial vicar of St. Thomas the Apostle, gave the blessing before sprinkling holy water on all animals in attendance.

“We thank you, St. Francis of Assisi, for your love of nature, for your love of animals — animals who are our friends and companions,” Thomas said. “We thank you, Lord, for letting us share the Earth with all the creatures, and we pray that you keep them away from sickness, and that God may bless them all and keep them safe.”

St. Francis was born in the 12th century in Assisi, Italy, and is one of the most revered religious figures in history. He wrote the Canticle of the Creatures, which expresses his love for nature and all creatures under the sun.

Some environmental activist groups have praised St. Francis for being the orginal Earth Day advocate, even though Earth Day was formally founded about 750 years after his 1224 death. He was canonized about four years after his death by Pope Gregory IX and is considered, along with St. Catherine of Siena, the Patron Saint of Italy.

An outreach branch of PETA allows owners and guardians of animals that cannot be transported to be blessed via a recorded phone message. Call toll-free 833-Assisi-1 (833-277-4741) to have an animal blessed by phone.

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