Paws in prayer: St. Francis Day Mass honors animal companions

By Emily Shultz
October 17, 2023

St. Francis mass and blessing of the animals by the Commons Peace Pole. Photo by Emily Shultz
Students, staff, and pets gather at the Commons Peace Pole for St. Francis Day Mass. Photo by Emily Shultz.

On Wednesday, October 4, a small group of furry friends gathered at the Commons Peace Pole. Students and staff, as well as Cookie and Marshmallow (two fluffy rabbits), and a spotted dog named Shelby, attended a very special mass hosted by Cabrini Campus Ministry. Held in celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the animals, along with their human companions, received a blessing.

A saint of peace

A happy beagle attends the St. Francis Day Mass to be blessed.
Shelby attends St. Francis Day Mass. Photo by Emily Shultz.

Dr. Raymond Ward, Director of Wolfington Center, emphasized the significance of St. Francis’ Feast Day. “The Catholic Church celebrates saints on their feast days. Often, those feast days are the days that they died. He [Saint Francis] is a major saint in the church,” he said. “Some people even see him as kind of like a little presence of God and Christ in life. And a lot of people see huge similarities between him especially in his humility and his willingness to sacrifice himself for others and Jesus.”

St. Francis is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment. The 12th-century saint often preached and advocated for all creatures to be treated equally under God, and this is why the blessing of the animals is such a significant part of his feast day. Additionally, the event flier noted the importance of animals as a reminder of the beauty in all of God’s creations.

Ward continued, “[St. Francis] is famous for having the stigmata, which is the replication of Jesus’s wounds, and especially for his love of nature. So he was very peace-loving.” Director of Campus Ministry Antoinette Reeves also attended the mass. She said of St. Francis, “We celebrated him and the blessing of the animals today. I’m very happy with the turnout. I wish it could have been more, but I am happy. There were some new faces here today that don’t come to our traditional weekly or daily Masses. So, it was just good to see more people here.”

A perfect day

Typically, the daily masses are held in the Bruckmann Memorial Chapel of Saint Joseph. The St. Francis mass was held outdoors to commemorate his respect for nature. Fortunately, the weather was just right, with a comfortable temperature in the 80s and a sunny sky. Brielle Sherman, a freshman digital communication major, described the event as a good opportunity for students to go to mass.

“It’s a beautiful day for it. You couldn’t have asked for a better day for this. And seeing the little animals is really sweet,” Jeny Varughese, administrative coordinator for the Wolfington Center, Campus Ministry and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, said. She also commented on the successful gathering. “I thought that it went really well. Everybody seemed to have enjoyed it,” she said. The event ended with a handful of blessed fuzzy and four-legged critters. 

A Cabrini student holds their pet bunny to be blessed at the St. Francis Mass.
Brielle Sherman holds Cookie. Photo by Emily Shultz.

Cabrini’s Campus Ministry needs Mass volunteers. Students and staff are welcome to participate as lectors, altar servers, church singers, and musicians. To sign up, please fill out the volunteer form.

Additionally, Mass is held at the Bruckmann Memorial Chapel of Saint Joseph at 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. An interfaith prayer service is held at 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Praise and worship services occur 12-12:20 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday (and on Sunday at 1:40-2 p.m.). Individuals can also participate in rosary prayer every Tuesday at 12:05 p.m.

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Emily Shultz

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