October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of animals. Many communities use the first Sunday in October as a day to honor animals and those who care for them. In the Episcopal Church, we usually have a blessing of the animals. At our preschool, we invite the children to bring their stuffed animals and have a blessing.
Seting aside a day for pets is a fun event that can be used as a teaching and formation event. I always start by telling the story of St. Francis, who was kind and loving to people and animals. Reading a book with pictures makes this fun. Three books I recommend for any age are:
- The Prayer of St. Francis
- Saint Francis of Assisi: Messenger of Peace
- Saint Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy
If blessing live animals, be sure to have leaflets for all to participate. Having a certificate or St. Francis Pet medal to give out, will remind all who came about this day and your church.
For stuffed animals, I ask the blessing that the animal chase away bad dreams, tears, and bring comfort. I, also have a small Saint Francis doll on hand to show the children.
A great celebration or festival includes stations for those who wish to participate. Ideas for stations include:
- Crafts! Ideas for crafts include: Zoo Animal Necklaces, Animal Magnets, Origami Animals, PomPom Pets, Animal Suncatchers, Animal Masks, and Paper Sack Puppets (need paper sacks, construction paper, markers, wiggle eyes, and glue.
- Prayer: write a prayer for animals and decorate it.
- Games! Ideas for games include: Jungle Ring Toss, Animal Croquet, and Fishing Pond (ducks or with plastic fish.)
- Treats: Treats for pets (this is a great fundraiser for youth) and treats for people (animal crackers or goldfish are nice for the theme.)
- Outreach: Collect supplies from the needs list for the local animal shelter.
Invite the Police K-9 and Horse Units for demonstrations and to be part of the blessing.
Also invite the local shelter to bring some animals for adoption. Ask them to have materials on care of pets for children. Also, invite a veterinarian to give out treat bags or coupons.
Invite the surrounding neighborhood to bring their pets. Make sure you request all animals to be on leash or in a cage.
St. Francis Day Celebration or Festival is a wonderful way to show love and care for creation. It is a chance to honor our devoted animal friends. It is a great way to introduce new people to our church and to be seen as a church that cares.
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