Written by Bwog Staff
This past Sunday, Morningside Heights residents and their furry companions packed the sanctuary of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, better known as the only day of the year you’ll find llamas, yaks, and snakes integrated into a church service. The animals were present for the Blessing of the Animals, held in honor of the patron saint of all that is creepy, crawly, and furry. Bwog’s Alison Herman and Evelyn Warner were on hand.
Services began with several hymns, spiced up with “YMCA” style participatory dance moves for the audience. A sermon on water issues that quoted both the Declaration of Human Rights and the Qur’an followed, urging churchgoers to “lift up to God this issue of water privatization.” Although most of the speech was drowned out by barks, squawks, and other unidentifiable animal noises, it was an admirable nod to environmentalism and social justice. (Note: paying attention in church is made especially difficult when there’s a bulldog in a bumblebee costume wandering the aisle.)
Soon enough, it was time for the cathedral doors to open and the Procession of the Animals began. Led by cute little kids and trailed by clergy saddled with the unfortunate task of cleaning up the animals’, er, leavings, creatures big and small paraded up and down the aisles. In addition to congregants’ own pets, animals from Dawn’s Animal Sanctuary and the Green Chimneys Farm and Wildlife Center were invited to take part in the ceremony. Sightings included a tortoise transported by wagon, a monkey wrapped in a blanket, and an extremely reluctant alpaca requiring several helpers to keep it on course.
After the service, attendees were free to wander the St. Francis Day Fair in the cathedral’s parking lot. Notable booths included representatives from Pigeon People—mission: “Teach People to Like Pigeons”—and Anjellicle Cats Rescue, whose unorthodox spelling and adorable kittens made it a crowd favorite.
For those of you who missed out on the festivities, fear not: the Blessing of the Animals will return for the 28th consecutive year next fall.