|Listening to the Service|
(By Gertrude Stein)
A little monkey goes like a donkey that means to say that means to say that more sighs last goes. Leave with it. A little monkey goes like a donkey.
I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Blessing of the Animals last weekend at Wayfarers Chapel. Seeing animals participate in peaceful religious ceremonies always charms me. First, I'm amazed that chaos doesn't break out derailing the whole event. Seriously, how do you gather together a group of semi-wild beasts and not have mayhem prevail? Dogs and cats, bunnies and snakes, these creatures can be querulous at any given moment. How is it that they become relatively well-behaved at these types of events?
Second, the compassion that the human participants have for their beastly companions is touching. Bringing their pets to the ceremony is important to the pet owners. The wish to share the spiritual consolations of the faith with their beloved animal "family members" is admirable. It is an obvious expression of love and charity. And that's why I find it so moving.
I'm happy that modern American spirituality has mostly rejected the old Creation hating attitude that has dominated most of the Christian tradition. With a few notable exceptions, such as St. Francis of Assisi, animals have been considered soulless creatures, unworthy of affection. Bah!!! I say good riddance to Medieval human arrogance and meanness of empathy.
These beasties might not have the gift of advanced reason, but they can certainly feel pleasure and devotion towards their human friends. So, why wouldn't a loving and benevolent Divinity extend blessings unto them?
Personally, I'm not an animal person. There are many reasons for this, but allergies and lifestyle concerns keep me from becoming one. However, I can respect and admire those who have such a bounty of compassion and empathy that they can bond with a beast. In fact, when a person treats an animal with kindness, it indicates a generosity of spirit. When a person is cruel to a beast, it displays a hint of sociopathy.
Therefore, as a proud spiritual humanist, the Blessing of the Animals is one of my favorite religious ceremonies to observe. It is a celebration of human empathy and recognition of the worthiness of the creatures with whom we share Creation.
Here's a fun vid about the annual Blessing at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
Here's the Wayfarers Chapel website.
Here's the Cathedral of St. John the Divine's website.
And here's Gertrude Stein's Wikipedia page.