This Sunday, Catholic churches around the country are inviting community members to bring their pets to church in an annual Blessing of the Pets mass.
Guided by tradition, churches this week will celebrate St. Francis of Assisi, who is best known as the patron saint of animals. Though the saint left few writings he is accredited with the popular hymn, "All creatures of our God and King."
A representative of the Church of Our Savior in Massachusetts told the Middleboro Gazette, "What we know of St. Francis and his connections to animals only comes from legends. However, the celebration and remembrance of his life and work reminds us how we as creatures of this earth are all connected to God and are present because of God’s joy and mercy in creation."
The La Quinta church in Palm Springs, California, has been offering the pet blessing ceremony for the last 10 years. In 2008, more than 200 pet owners brought their animals to be sanctified in the church’s courtyard and then received a personal certificate acknowledging the blessing.
Some churches advise that owners of aggressive animals bring a photograph or stuffed animal as a stand-in for their pet.