In the previous article, we have talked about the feast of St. Francis of Asisi that is celebrated worldwide, from Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States, until Philippine. If you haven’t, you can read the article here so you can get a glimpse of what the event looks like. In general, the feast of St. Francis of Asisi is held to commemorate St. Francis, who is known for his great love for animals and environment, and then associated with patronage of animals and environment. Churches, especially catholic churches, hold the ceremony of animals blessing on or near this feast day, which is October 4.
This event is not a public holiday, but still, the feast of St. Francis of Asisi is one of the festivals in the world that celebrate animals. It is joyful and surely amazing. We don’t find an animal blessing service every day, do we? So here are some amazing facts that you need to know about this religious ceremony.
6 Amazing Facts of The Feast of St. Francis of Asisi
1. Important day in Italy
The feast of St. Francis of Asisi is actually the most important day of the Franciscan calendar in Asissi, Italy. October 4 is the day to commemorate the transition of St. Francis into the afterlife. And since St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and environment because of his great love for animals and nature, churches that honor Saint Francis will hold the ceremony of animal blessing and prayers. They believe that animals also have to be blessed because they are one of God’s creations too. Originally, the feast day is starting from October 3, where Assisi town is decorated with oil lamps burning consecrated oil that brought from different towns in the countries each year and the religious services are held in the Basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli and surely in the Basilica of St Francis.
2. Celebrated worldwide
Nowadays, not only in Italy, but the feast of St. Francis of Asisi is also held around the world, from Europe, US, Asia, Australia, and Canada. Even in some countries, the event is not exclusively held by catholic churches but also held by Anglican churches.
3. The Story of Saint Francis
Saint Francis is one of the honored saints, especially in the catholic belief. Saint Francis lived in Italy during the 12th to 13th centuries and founded the Catholic’s Franciscan order, the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis, and the Custody of the Holy Land. He was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon and preacher and later known for his generosity to the poor and his great love for animals and environment.
October 4 is the day that he died at Portiuncula, Italy in 1226 and Pope Gregory IX pronounced him as a saint and laid the foundation stone of the church Basilica of St. Francis two years later. Until now, this church is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites.
4. Saint Francis and his love for the animals
Saint Francis had a great love for animals and nature and later became associated with the patronage of animals and environment. There is a story about Saint Francis and animals in a collection of legends and folklore named Fioretti, or Little Flowers. It is told that one day, Saint Francis was traveling through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna with his companions and ended up in the place where the trees on the sidewalk are filled many kind birds, from crows, doves, and more. Saint Francis then approached them and preached to the great number of birds, which he mentioned as his “sisters the birds”. The birds patiently waited for him and surrounded and listened to him. The birds didn’t fly away as he expected, because they are intrigued by the power of Saint Francis’ voice. This is also one of the reasons why Saint Francis is usually portrayed with birds in his hands.
5. The symbols
Usually, some symbols are seen during the celebration. As for the feast of St. Francis of Asisi, obviously, the symbols that usually appear in the ceremony associated with Saint Francis, such as animals, particularly birds, deer, and wolves, a lighted lamp, a bag of gold and the rich raiment at Saint Francis’ feet, and a winged crucifix with five rays, a crown of thrones.
6. Animals and Pets Blessing Ceremony
As we know, the feast of St. Francis of Asisi is a day mainly a day to remember the patron saint of animals and environment. The event includes animal blessing service and prayers so you will find lots of pet owners bring their loved furry friends to the churches on October 4 to get their pets to be blessed by the priest. The pet owners will raise their pets and the priest will sprinkle them with holy water. The ceremony can take place outdoors or indoors, or any other places that could gather different types of animals.
Mostly, the animals that are brought to the churches are domesticated pets, such as dogs, cats, rodents, birds, or even reptiles and fish! In one of the churches that held animal blessing in the UK, a 100 year old tortoise has been blessed. Native Australian bees, working animals such as mounted police horses, and even a cute little goldfish are also once be blessed in Australia churches.
That is all about some amazing facts of the feast of St. Francis of Asisi. After all, October 4 is the day to commemorate Saint Francis, who had a great love for animals and nature, which is something that we have to follow. We all agree that we have to be kind to every God’s creatures, aren’t we? Animal blessing might only happen for a day in a year, but we still can bless our pets with love every day! Hope you and your furry friends always be happy and healthy!