The Christian tradition of the Blessing of the Animals by churches is associated with St. Francis of Assisi, always pictured surrounded by creatures. St. Francis considered and called animals his brothers and sisters. He was known to have preached to the birds, blessed fish he caught and let them go. St. Francis treated all sentient things with kindness, much like Buddhist teaching. St Francis is credited with the first environmental consciousness raising movement, seeing God’s spirit alive in all living creatures.
It all began about 800 years ago in 1210-15. St. Francis promoted the idea that humans and all creatures were in the same relationship with God, and so deserved respect, care and gratitude. Among today’s Christians the blessing of the animals usually happens early in October around the Feast day of St. Francis which is October 4th.
Judaism also practices blessing of the animals toward the end of October around Shabbat Noach, the 28th and 29th, celebrating God’s promise to Noah and the creatures, never again to destroy creation. The Jews also blessed animals in the Spring on the 7th day of Passover, symbolic of the fact that not only humans but all their animals were released from slavery in Egypt.
The whole idea of the blessing of animals is to show gratitude to and for animals…for all they do and provide for us. It is also to recognize that they are gifts from God to help make our lives better and to provide for our needs. The blessing also reminds humans to take care of their animals like they look after themselves, with the same amount of care and concern. Animals bless our lives each day. On this special day of the blessing of the animals, we can return a little to God’s creatures who have given us so much and asked so little in return.