The Rev. Suzanne Mollison of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church spent Tuesday afternoon, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, blessing the animals at the Altus Animal Shelter, 2200 Enterprise Drive in Altus.
In the late 12th century, a wealthy, spoiled Italian boy,Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally called Francesco, gave his life to the service of God. Wearing nothing but castoff rags, he denied his wealth and chose to live in the woods with companions who wanted to follow his example despite sleeping in the open and begging for food. The man, later canonized as Saint Francis, spent his life sharing the love of God with what he called the brotherhood.
Dedicated to nature, he felt that all of God’s creations were part of this brotherhood, and not humanity alone.
In one famous story, Francis preached to a flock of birds encouraging them to be thankful to God for clothing them with feathered finery and giving them protection and independence. It was this moment that began the tradition of blessing animals, as it was a defining moment in Saint Francis’ life.
In another story, Saint Francis talked a ravenous wolf who had been terrorizing a local village into quitting its murderous ways instead of allowing the townspeople to kill it.
These stories and many others are the reason that on Oct. 2, Saint Francis’ love for nature and all God’s creatures was celebrated throughout the country with blessing of the animal services.
Volunteers and members of the Altus Animal Welfare Association helped Mollison with the shelter’s resident dogs as she said a special liturgy for them. The blessing is an act of goodwill, imparting power or life.
Undoubtedly, Mollison prayed for each one to find a loving home and a long, healthy, happy life — a blessing Saint Francis, the spoiled boy turned selfless saint, would have approved.
For more information about animals available for adoption, contact the Altus Animal Control Department at 580-481-2285.
Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.