“All God’s critters got a place in the choir/ Some sing low – some singer higher,” sang the children, faculty and parents of St. Catherine’s to a raucous chorus of yaps, woofs, meows, and clucks. It was 9 a.m. in the Primary courtyard and the Blessing of the Animals was about to commence.
Every October 4th, St. Catherine’s celebrates the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology, with a beautiful gathering of creatures great and small. Students bring their pets (or a photo of pets that cannot attend) and those students without pets of their own are called to bless the animals with sprigs of rosemary dipped in holy water.
The ceremony began at 8:45 a.m. as 30 Elementary students quietly lined up to take turns at the microphone. Tiny hermit crabs scuttled into their shells and an enormous 13-month-old Mastiff sat silently as a brief story of the life and calling of St. Francis was narrated, followed by a reading from the book of Genesis: “Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
Assembled in groupings by class amidst butterfly-attracting hamelia and firecracker plants, the children held their pets and responded along to the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 148). A sand boa slithered from hand to hand and two bearded dragons from Ms. Maggie’s class crawled up shirts during readings from the Prophet Isaiah (“the baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair”) and the Gospel according to Matthew.
The closing prayer was in the students’ own words: “Thank you for the bees that help things grow and for the ants who clean the earth. Thank you for the rabbits because they are cute and fuzzy, and for crabs because they walk sideways.”
And then the prayers were over, songs were sung, and a flurry of activity commenced as hedgehogs, geckos, guinea pigs, cats, rabbits, turtles, birds and dogs of all shapes and sizes (from Yorkies and Chihuahuas to Havanese and Labradors to the aforementioned Mastiff) were blessed. An Adolescent Community student strolled through with a particularly handsome Plymouth Rock chicken tucked under his arm as the pungent, woodsy aroma of rosemary wafted through the barks, yelps and giggles.
By 9:15 a.m. it was all over; the animals blessed for another year, the words of “A Place in the Choir” humming through the air, “It’s a simple song of living everywhere/ By the ox and the fox and grizzly bear.”
Click here to view photos from this event.