The following firsthand report is from a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in St. Robert.
Oct. 4 traditionally has been set aside as the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.
Among other things, this quiet and gentle man is the patron saint of animals. If we have a pet, we seem to know all about St. Francis.
Our gardens even hold a special place for a statue of this holy man who was known to preach to not only the people of his time, but also to the birds.
So, it seemed fitting for the St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in St. Robert to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis in an outdoor Mass ... along with our pets.
The Mass was to end with a blessing of the pets, as well as all who would be in attendance.
Well, that was the plan. It rained ... it rained all day!
Thinking of the comfort of the parishioners and their furry friends, the entire event was moved indoors. So much for the camping chairs, tiki torches, and that closeness with nature!
Parishioners and their pets began entering St. Robert Bellarmine Parish’s beautiful Fellowship Hall.
Arriving with little fanfare was Bernard, a beautiful spirited Golden Retriever. Always looking for an adventure, Bernard settled down to a place up front to ensure visibility.
Bernard was followed by Daisy Mae, a recently adopted senior Staffordshire Terrier. It was apparent that she loved her new owner.
And then there was Eddie, a terrier. It was obvious that he had been voted “most likely to succeed” by his terrier peers. What confidence this little guy had!
Carried in was Sandy, the Yorkie ... clearly an aristocrat ... noble by birth.
Schnauzers Little Lucy and Murphy soon appeared. Alert and focused, they were ready to chase anything, but preferably a squirrel.
Yang, a beautiful black rabbit, peered from his carrier oblivious to anything. He has a perfect name, as it is associated with all things positive, good and happy.
From Fort Leonard Wood was Manny, a Labrador, and Oakley, a Labrador Terrier mix. They seemed to be as young and friendly as their owners.
Arriving slowly, like a respectful gentleman, was Jack. Proud of his mixed breed heritage, his movement might have been a bit stiff and difficult, but his attitude was young at heart. With him being 15 years old, one could just imagine the wisdom that this old soul has.
Last but not least was Sprinkles the cat. Refusing to be transported in a carrier, she was wrapped up in a blanket like an enormous burrito and carried into the hall. Needless to say, she voiced her animosity toward anyone and everything that looked in her direction.
Father Michael Murphy, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish and St. Jude Parish in Richland, began the service speaking eloquently of Pope Francis.
Fr. Murphy explained that choosing the name Francis was definitely a nod to St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan order that he founded.
The priest began the Mass with normal reverence and extended greetings to all parishioners. The Book of Saints was employed for creating a familiarity to the Feast of St. Francis.
As always and in preparation of the reading of the Gospel, parishioners stood ... and, of course, every dog in the Hall also stood!
Bernard, the Golden Retriever was excited. “Mum,” he said, “is it over now? Do I get my pup cup? ... Oh boy, oh boy, I’m getting a pup cup!”
At that point, everyone sat down for the homily. A bit confused, Bernard settled down and took a nap.
At the end of Mass, Fr. Murphy successfully worked his way through parishioners and their furry friends, gently blessing each pet with a gentle sprinkle of holy water.
Sprinkles the cat eventually rolled out of the burrito blanket just in time to be blessed, but still declaring her displeasure of the entire situation. My guess was that she was contacting her ancestors in an attempt to plot world domination!
As the service and blessings ended, parishioners and their pets began to file out of the Fellowship Hall. A few spent a few moments at the remembrance candle and a table containing various mementoes belonging to those pets who had passed.
We certainly know that those dogs and cats loved their owners and families unconditionally during their short lives.
We also know that we will always keep them close to our hearts for the rest of our lives.