QUAERITUR: Can I have my pet blessed?

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From a reader:

Is having a pet blessed a odd ball thing? I would feel odd about
bringing my dog into a church. She is a good dog but still.

I have no problem at all with blessing pets or other animals.  I once stood outside a little church in Italy and blessed pigs and horses on the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot.

God gave stewardship of all material creation to man and that duty was not lifted with the Fall of our First Parents.  Holy Church has blessings for animals of different kinds, as well as deprecatory prayers against noxious, pestiferous, annoying animals… such as squirrels.  I hate squirrels.  But I digress.

Animals were given to us by God, as part of creation which He calls good, for our proper use and our enjoyment.  Animals benefit us in many ways and it is normal that we should call down God’s blessings on them so that they can continue to be even more useful and beneficial.  Pets have an important part to play in our lives.  So long as we keep them with a proper perspective and see them for what they are, they are good.

You can take a copy of pages of the old Rituale Romanum translated into English with you. Otherwise, even better, get Father his own copy of the reprint of Fr. Weller’s translation of the Rituale which has the blessings.

Don’t bring your cattle into church, however.  Fido can stay outside with Anathema and Scourge the Cat.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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24 Responses to QUAERITUR: Can I have my pet blessed?

  1. TLMom says:

    Excellent post! And I really hate squirrels, too!

  2. sawdustmick says:

    Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a food / cookery based TV series in the UK. It started with him travelling Britain, ending up with his “River Cottage” series in Dorset. In one particular show he had a barbecued squirel on a stick. Didn’t look so cute there !!

  3. pelerin says:

    If Fr Z hates squirels he had better avoid St James Park in London! I was there a week ago and there were dozens of squirels darting about in the hot sunshine. They quickly recognise those people who carry food for them and I saw one dart up a man’s trouser leg to reach the bag of goodies he had brought them. They are fascinating creatures to watch especially when they tightrope walk along the railings.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    I have a grey parrot. God gave him life and saw that he was good, quite prior to any “utility” he may have to humans. In the Canticle of the three young men from Daniel we sing “Birds of the air, bless the Lord” and this they do (so even the squirrels) without this simply being dependent on their fellow creatures the “sons of men”. Even acknowledging them as beautiful is something different than reducing them to their usefulness. I cannot trivialize them, their lives and sufferings, it is not consistent with human dignity to do so (ccc “it is contrary to human dignity to cause unnecessary suffering and death to animals”). Blessed John Paul II said “also the animals possess a soul and that men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.” Probably one must know something of Catholic philosophy and theology to understand what he is saying without misinterpretation. He is not saying there is equality, much less that they are capable of the Beatific vision, but he is unavoidably saying that we are in relationship to them and that there is a love which is appropriate to have for the animals. In Scripture this is brought out in a very interesting way when the animals are actually party also, on obviously very different terms, to God’s covenant with Noah and his descendants. God, therefore, is also in relationship with the animals in some way which is different than the way he is in relationship with the people. And in some mysterious way Christ’s salvation which fulfills all God’s covenants, is for the whole Creation. And when death is the last to be destroyed, this obviously has its relevance not only for the people but also for the animals.

  5. spock says:

    The last Church I attended regularly had a retired priest who brought in his dog on occasion which annoyed the Pastor. The Pastor was as equally friendly with cats as Father Z appears to be above.

    I love cats too.
    They make a great sound under my Michelin’s.

  6. Federico says:

    Why hate squirrels? They’re wonderful braised. In fact, any recipe that calls for rabbit or hare will work wonderfully with squirrels.

  7. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Yes, they are finger lickin’ good. Especially fox squirrels (the two meal size). Sear the meat, braise in vegetable stock. Reduce. etc. etc. Serve with tangerine slices and sourdough bread. This ain’t your grandma’s squirrel gravy.

  8. spock says:

    I suspect (but don’t really know) that the reason for the animosity toward squirrels has to do with their effects on bird feeders.

    Father Z loves to feed birds from bird feeders.
    Squirrels love to eat from bird feeders.
    Birds are not fed due to the squirrels eating from the bird feeders.
    Therefore Father Z hates squirrels.

    Maybe right. Maybe not. :)

  9. spacepiston says:

    Blessing of pets just took place here in Belmont, MI not too long ago. It’s an annual thing around here but personally I find it ridiculous. We live in a society where the value of an animal is held as equal or greater than the life of a human being in some cases. I know many people, including family who show more love and affection to their dogs than they do to their children or grandchildren. The most distasteful example would be the young 20 somethings who shack up and then get a dog or cat and reference their situation like a newly married couple expecting a baby. A neighbor lost a cat, and after a week of searching they got a rescue to dog and went from yard to yard! Am I the only one who thinks this insane? How about this; If you have time to get a pet blessed, could not that time be used to help a friend or family member, even if only through example or prayer??

  10. Jennyfire says:

    Federico and Banjo girl, LOL!

    Here in suburbia, lacking a natural predator, squirrels are found in abundance. I think of them as tree rats.

  11. Mary Bruno says:

    Our parish has a blessing for the pets on St Francis of Assi’s feast day. It is held out on the front lawn by the school and rectory. Father says prayers and blesses everyone with holy water. It’s nice. But we forgot to go this year, kind of bummed about it.

  12. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I am annoyed by people who equate squirrels, which are vegetarian, with rats, which eat carrion, among other things. Two entirely different niches.

    House cats are a natural predator of the squirrel. So are dogs. So are coyotes, and you have them wherever you are whether you see them or not. There is a den in my back yard within 4 miles of Columbus.

    You also have sharp-shinned hawks in suburbia, or other raptors, which are squirrel predators.

    Bless all edible animals, and pets, and animals that are just decorative or nice-sounding. Peacocks! Katydids!

  13. K_Suzanne says:

    There is a woman in my home parish church who brings her (small, quiet, and well-behaved) dog to Mass every day at the morning daily Mass. The dog is often allowed to walk around behind the altar and go into the sacristy. I suspect most of the regulars at that Mass are used to it, but it is greatly disturbing to me every time I visit home. I’m not sure that I can reasonably request that the priest ask her to stop bringing it, since I’m only there during holiday breaks from school.

  14. K_Suzanne says:

    Oh, the dog also accompanies its owner in the Communion procession. :-/

  15. Jennyfire says:

    Thanks for the clarification Banjo girl, but we still have too many in our yard. Not enough predators here in our neighborhood. I don’t like to see something dart across the window right next to me several times a day. We have too many for them to be cute anymore.

  16. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Slingshot. Pellet gun. Box traps. Cougar.

  17. amenamen says:

    “So long as we keep them with a proper perspective and see them for what they are, they are good.”

    Farmers who have pigs and horses and other livestock usually see these creatures for what they are. But so many people nowadays seem to lose all “proper perspective” when it comes to their pets, especially in our contraceptive culture, when they become substitutes for actually having children.

    The pet is “part of the family” according to a popular mentality, even among some Catholics http://readchristina.com/?p=604

    If you had to dump your spouse or your pet, … well?
    http://www.petage.com/news070508.asp

  18. irishgirl says:

    I’ve had two dogs, both mutts, one a stray (which my older sister found one morning running in traffic), the other a shelter rescue. I loved them very much, especially the second one, a Jack Russell / hound mix. I took her to a ‘Blessing of the Beasts’ [my term for it] at the parish I was going to at the time.
    My ‘Tia’ (that was her name) was not the most sociable dog in the world. She got all squirmy in my arms, then she twisted her head out of her collar and was ‘almost’ loose! I yelled ‘TIA!”, and she immediately lay flat on the ground in submission. I got some help in putting her collar back on, then everything was okay after that.
    I’m not awfully crazy about squirrels, but they’re kind of fun to watch as they chase each other and climb trees. They’re also pretty funny when they try to get into bird feeders and end up ‘crashing’ on the ground!

  19. JMGDD says:

    I would like to have my dog blessed, but it’s not practical (or advisable, really) to bring her to the church. I do, however, have a nifty St Francis medal, in the style and material of a dog tag. If I were to have the medal blessed and put it on her collar, would the effect be the same, you think?

  20. Re: blessings as a waste of time, pretty much all of our Christian ancestors would be shocked at how little today’s Catholics utilize the Church’s ability to bless things. In the old days, everything had a time to be blessed: vehicles, houses, tools, professions, hobbies, pastimes, seeds, harvests, beer and wine and spirits, and anything else anybody could think of. It was a sign that all our lives and all of Creation belongs to God. If you didn’t get things blessed, it was kind of ominous and creepy and disrespectful. (If there had been medieval horror movies, for instance, a lot of them would have started with someone who was such a selfish pig that he never said grace before his meals.) So the shame is not that there are blessing ceremonies for pets, but that so many people never see any other blessing ceremonies at all.

  21. AvantiBev says:

    Having worked for a vet at one time, volunteered for an animal shelter and having shared over 30 years of my life with dogs (dachsies), I never cease to be sorry at how many Catholics mouth the Nicene Creed every Sunday about a Heavenly Father who “created all things visible and invisible” while apparently not believing it. Perhaps they all had earthly fathers who were not that hot, played favorites or didn’t love the children they had created.

    As an actress I cannot imagine saying I hated or was indifferent to even one role I have created. I choose not to worship a God who hates or could care less about 99% of what He has created. That just does not make sense to me. Of course, if I love my little Nikki Sue as much as I do, how could He not? He’s the one who knew her from the moment she was a fetal pup in her dam’s womb. She is as much a miracle of His loving creative Spirit as I am. I wasn’t created by one God and she another.

    And of course, God sees the horrid cruelty that is inflicted by human ignorance, greed or apathy upon so much of his animal creation. I always pray for the wonderful people I have encountered volunteering for rescue organizations. I pray that the Holy Spirit gives them the strength to carry on when the number of abuse and neglect cases seem endless.

    And I thank the nuns who taught me the rhetorical device known as “false dilemna” and used in some comments above: you can be concerned and love that abused, injured and homeless animal OR you can do something about a homeless or injured human. FALSE DILEMNA. I am woman; see my multitask! What do you think the loaves and fishes miracle was all about? Love and reach in; you will find only more love.

  22. AvantiBev says:

    oops….make that DILEMMA.. but just as false.

  23. AvantiBev says:

    And Irish girl having survived a childhood as a minority on the very Irish SW side of the city of Chicago, I thought “blessing of the BEASTS” more properly referred to what your priests do just before your parade kicks off on March 17th. :-)

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, this is an old Franciscan practice that has spread to the larger church. Nothing wrong with it. It’s a recognition of the goodness of God and the providence He has over all of creation, including you and your dependents, even your animals. You can get a Franciscan blessing on or about October 3rd every year, which is the Transitus (or death day) of St. Francis, if you can find a Franciscan priest or deacon to do it. Nowadays, any other priest can also probably do it in the same spirit if you provide him with a suitable text or ask him to use one he might have.