To celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4, many Catholics hold a ceremony for blessing of pets, including at big city cathedrals. I’ve always wondered what sort of benefit blessing was supposed to give a
pet “animal companion”, but I suppose that it makes their owners “human caretakers” feel better. But a church in Berkeley has gone far beyond the annual animal blessing ceremony to welcome animals as members of their congregation.
At that church, according to an article in today’s Contra Costa Times,
“Animals are considered part of the congregation year-round. Their names are listed on the parish roster, and they are regular participants at every Sunday service.
They are even given communion – or, as the church’s pastor, the Rev. Richard Mapplebeckerpalmer, calls it, ‘holy num-nums.'”
Responding to those who challenge this practice, Mapplebeckerpalmer says,
“The Gospel is about grace, not faith, and we are a community of grace. And my personal vision of the banquet of heaven is that we’re all gathered at the foot of the cross, where no one is rejected, period.”
Really? I thought that we were saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Faith is a rather important part of Christianity. In the Apostle John’s vision of the banquet of heaven only those who belong to Jesus Christ are invited to the feast (Rev. 19:7-9). Those who do not know Him await a very different fate (Rev. 20:11-15).
I’ve always wanted to do an in-depth study of the concept of “blessing” in the Bible. That will have to wait for another time, but I can’t think of any instance in which the Bible speaks of blessing animals. Only people or God are said to be “blessed.” (If you can think of an exception, please let me know.) Animals, or for that matter inanimate objects, could be “consecrated” (i.e. set apart) for the Lord. In the case of animals that usually meant that they were set aside for use to be sacrificed on the alter.
I guess that this practice is not surprising, considering that their church web site states that their teaching program ranges “from Buddhist meditation to Gregorian chant singing, and much more!” Their current Adult Sunday School topic is “The Gnostic Gospel of Philip.”