Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blessings of Animals

I am suffering a bit of insomnia this Sunday, as I will be officiating a wedding in Central Park. The weather, with light, but persistent, showers, may have something else in mind for us. The bride and groom, Sarah and Bill, are terrific. Sarah is a dog lover and decided that their beloved pooch Boefje should be the ring bearer. While this may strike some as odd, in the Celebrant community it is not that uncommon, believe it or not. For, a hallmark of the Celebrancy movement worldwide is a deep appreciation for all creatures.

It is a fitting time for Boefje’s wedding debut, as we are approaching the Saint’s Day for Francis of Assisi. Many are familiar with the beautiful St. Francis prayer (Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love….), but he is also well known for his love of animals. Indeed, this is the time of year when many churches, Catholic and Protestant open their Sanctuaries for the “Blessing of the Animals.” A Christian church around the corner from my apartment, for instance, proudly displays a banner for today’s “Blessing of the Animals.” As we passed by the church yesterday, walking home from the Metropolitan Museum, my boyfriend noticed the sign and murmured about the silliness of it all. As a good Celebrant, I tried to remind him that in modern America—and particularly in a place like New York— pets have taken on a vital role as family members, for many. With extended families on the decline and vast numbers of people living alone, pets provide companionship and unconditional love for so many. The Celebrancy community acknowledges these connections by routinely leading services related to animals, such as pet memorials. My Celebrant colleague Dorry Bless, for instance, is officiating a ceremony in October at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center (, where she will bless the wonderful dogs being raised to work as guide and service dogs for the blind and disabled.

Recently I came across an article in the Christian magazine Guideposts, most often associated with the great Norman Vincent Peale. The piece described a minister who was struggling with a dwindling congregation in North Weymouth, Massachusetts, outside Boston. “Out of nowhere” the idea came to her—to let congregants bring their animals to worship services. It was a huge success! (

It is refreshing and energizing to see so many spiritually-inclined institutions recognizing the role that animals play in our communities. I’m glad the Celebrancy community is at the forefront. So, as I close, the sun is nearly rising. We are keeping our collective fingers (and paws) crossed that Boefje will have his debut.
p.s. A special remembrance to my friend Robin who lost her pet Gracie this past week.
p.p.s. We did end up having the wedding outside today....cold and wet. But the dog looked mighty cute.

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