Why does the church celebrate St. Francis by blessing animals?

St. Francis of Assisi was known to have a love of the natural world and of creation; countless legends are told about him that attest to his special relationship with animals. He is said to have used live animals in popularizing the nativity scene and to have spent time preaching to the birds, who he called his sisters. In one famous story, he tamed a wolf that had been terrorizing the townspeople in the village of Gubbio. Because of this reputation, St. Francis became the patron saint of animals, and thus his feast day, celebrated on October 4, is often observed by blessing pets, livestock, and other animals. Blessings are meant to give thanks to God and ask for God’s protection; we believe that saints have special power to intercede for us in asking for God’s blessing. The feast of St. Francis is the perfect opportunity to ask for his intercession on behalf of the animals that he recognized as our brothers and sisters in God’s creation.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.