“Some people criticize the amount and cost of care given to pets,” the Rev. Peter J. Gower said Sunday after delivering the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church in Johnston. “People are more important, they say.”
However, don’t try to sell that theory to the popular pastor, as you’ll quickly learn he “believes every creature is important.”
“The love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, can draw us more deeply into the larger circle of life, into the wonder of our common relationships to our creator,” Gower said.
Sunday was the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi, lover of all creatures, and thus was the reasoning behind the liturgy for the Blessing of Animals at Our Lady of Grace Church.
“A Blessing of Animals, in our parish witnesses to God’s and the church’s love, care and concern for creation,” Gower said. “As we recognize our mutual interdependence with God’s creatures, the church’s witness of stewardship of creation is strengthened.”
Gower said Sunday’s Blessing of the Animals had a special appeal for young and old alike, after welcoming and blessing 47 young people who attended mass and some 60 parishioners who gathered in the Our Lady of Grace churchyard.
And, as he reiterated after the blessing: “This custom is conducted in remembrance of Saint Francis of Assisi’s love for all creatures.”
As the blessing prayer was offered, Gower sprinkled holy water and later said: “Believe it or not, most pets received the sacramental spritz with dignity, though I must admit I have seen some cats flatten their ears a bit as the drips of water pelt them. But the owner is happy, and who knows what spiritual benefits may result?”
Thus, people like Vilma Zanni – who was accompanied by Jason Grossi, MarySue Andreozzi and Mary Rose Fields – were among the proud pet owners who were thrilled and later thanked Father Gower for blessing their poodle Modna.
Likewise, Sunday’s Blessing of the Animals featured a variety of pets, including Melissa Winsor’s Great Dane “Dot” and Phil and Cathy Zito’s Boxer “Jake,” among plenty of others.
Once the blessing was completed, Gower – with assistance of alter attendants – distributed a special Saint Francis Pet Medal to the respective pet owners.