A Blessing for the Animals

St Francis Day is coming –  a traditional day for blessing the animals and I know that in the next few days many will be looking for resources to help celebrate the day.

I love today’s liturgy for blessing of the animals which was sent to me by Brian Sellers Petersen of the Episcopal Relief and Development.  It is a special edition of The Abundant Life Garden Project is available to you for free download to introduce children, their parents, and others in your faith community to the work of Episcopal Relief & Development.  I would heartily recommend this and the other resources in The Abundant Life Garden Project to you.

How to Use These Materials

These materials may be used for Blessing of the Animals services, children’s chapel, Sunday school, school chapel services or other worship services and Christian formation programs. Materials may be printed and used with little advance preparation. We supply you with a litany, a homily accompanied by photographs, discussion questions, and child-appropriate prayers. You may also show these materials on a laptop, large screen or active board.

Additional Resources

Additional children, youth and adult curricula resources are available at our website at www.er-d.org/formation. The full Abundant Life Garden Project may be used for Vacation Bible School, Sunday morning programs, weekday night programs, camps and special events. ActOut, our youth program, may be used for retreats, camps and even Sunday morning or weeknight programs.

Child with goat - photo by Harvey Wang of Episcopal Relief and Development

Child with goat – photo by Harvey Wang of Episcopal Relief and Development

Gather in the Lord’s Name

(Leader’s prayers are regular type; children and others’ lines are in bold.)

Leader: The Lord be with you!

Children and helpers: And also with you!

Leader: We thank you, Lord, for the gift of your creation. We thank you for plants, for water, for soil and seeds, for rocks and air, and for all animals. We thank you for all these gifts and ask you to help us be good and wise caretakers of this beautiful earth. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Leader: Now, I will read several prayers about animals. Since all kinds of animals are important gifts in the cycle of life, please respond to each of these prayers with, “We thank you, Lord, for the gift of animals.”

(The leader might ask children to practice saying, “We thank you, Lord, for the gift of animals,” before continuing.

Litany of Thanks for Animals in the Life Cycle of Earth

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of animals in our lives. We thank you for animals that comfort us, delight us and give us companionship. We thank you for dogs and cats, birds and hamsters, guinea pigs and fish.

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of animals.

We also thank you, Lord, for animals that give us wool and feathers to keep us warm. We thank you for animals that give us milk, cheese and eggs to help us grow and to keep us healthy. We thank you for horses, donkeys and oxen that work hard on farms around the world.

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of animals.

We thank you, Lord, for animals that eat plants and fertilize the soil, making it richer and more fertile for new growth and new life. We thank you, Lord, for the gift of insects, and especially bees, to pollinate fruit and vegetable plants for us to eat and flowers to give us joy.

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of animals.

We thank you, Lord, for being our Good Shepherd, for seeking us when we are lost, for showing us water to quench our thirst, and for leading us to green pastures. Help us to share our blessings with others and to help others have clean water and green pastures to feed and nourish their families, too.

In Christ’s name, Amen.

Proclaim and Respond to the Word of God

Listen to the words of Jesus… “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” —Matthew 25:40

Today is a day of serving those we might consider “the least” of the kingdom of God. We gather on this day to honor St. Francis of Assisi, a saint who listened to God, who took care of creation, and who ministered to animals.

St. Francis grew up in a wealthy household, and as a young man, he decided to give up all his riches – even his nice clothes – to serve God and others. He treated all animals with respect and, it is said, once preached to a flock of birds.

Animals are indeed important in our lives. We live with them. We play with them. They give us comfort and joy. But animals also help to nourish us. On this day, we honor both our pets and those animals who give us food, work on our farms, and are part of the cycle of life on our earth.

We also look today to the example of Francis of Assisi in serving and giving to others. As the son of a wealthy merchant in Assisi, in Italy, Francis could have lived a life of great pleasure. Instead, he lived a life of great service and great sharing.

Eight hundred years later, we are asked to share, just as Francis of Assisi was asked to share and serve. We are all asked to be the hands and feet of Christ whenever we see “the least” of our human family in hunger or in thirst.

In many countries of the world, animals are an important part of people’s lives. Animals pull plows, provide eggs and milk, pollinate plants and fertilize soil. Animals are truly a gift and a vital part of creation.

As we honor our own animals this day, we also honor the role of animals in feeding the hungry, all over the world. We pray to seek out people in need, wherever they might be. We pray to serve them with our gifts, our blessings and ourselves.

Questions for Discussion

How have animals blessed us in our own lives? How might we share the joy and comfort we receive with others? Where do we see “the least” of our human family? How might we follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi in thought, word and deed?

Prayers for the People, Prayers for the Passing of the Peace

Now, we will pray to seek and serve others through the gifts and abundance we enjoy. Please respond to each of these prayers with the words, “We pray to share your peace, dear Lord.”

(The leader might ask children to practice saying, “We pray to share your peace, dear Lord,” before continuing.)

The Lord be with you!

And also with you! 

Help us to remember the example of Francis of Assisi, and help us to remember that we

are the hands and feet of Christ.

We pray to share your peace, dear Lord.

Help us to bring healing to this hurting world. Help us to act as Jesus to those in need.

We pray to share your peace, dear Lord.

Help us to appreciate our many blessings. Help us to share what we have with others.

We pray to share your peace, dear Lord.

Help us especially to share your hope, your care of each and every person in this world, and your Kingdom of Heaven, so that all will have abundant life in you.

We pray to share your peace, dear Lord.

We also pray for those in need in our own community. You may name them or pray for them silently, if you wish.

(Please pause so that children and leaders may freely make their own intercessions.)

We thank you, Lord, for the gift of animals in our world. We thank you for the role of animals in serving as our companions, in fertilizing our soil, in pollinating our plants and in providing food and drink for us. We pray for those who raise animals to support themselves and their families, and we pray to help give others gifts for life.

In Christ’s name, Amen.

Passing the Peace, Passing Our Gifts

The peace of the Lord be always with you!

And also with you!

(Children should greet each other and their leaders with a handshake or other appropriate gesture.)

One or more songs might be sung. These might include:

• For small children, “The Lord, the Lord, the Lord is my shepherd (#102 in My Heart Sings Out, ed. Fiona Vidal-White)

  • For older children, “A new commandment” (#92 in My Heart Sings Out, ed. Fiona Vidal-White)

Offertory

(If time allows, children might now spend time thinking about, making or planning a response to the Scripture, prayers and story presented. Below are several possible responses.)

• Draw a picture of how God gives us life through the gift of animals.

  • Draw pictures to go with the Litany of Thanks for the Gift of Animals; display them in your church, school or camp
  • Visit a farm and learn about the work of real farmers who tend dairy cattle, goats, or sheep. Ask questions about the amount of work involved in raising animals that give us milk or wool. Find out how real farmers and farm workers live and the challenges they face.
  • Celebrate and honor the animals in your life by giving the gift of farm animals to others through the Gifts for Life catalog
  • Plan and hold a fundraiser to give the gift of animals to those in need. A gift of only $35 will buy a duck or goose for a family in need. A gift of $80 will buy a goat, and a gift of $100 will purchase a pig for a family to raise.

(Children might share their pictures, ideas or other gifts by placing them on the altar as they return to the celebration of Holy Eucharist with their families.)