On Bipeds & Brutes

National Museum of Animals & Society Blog

World Animal Day

St. Francis statue. Image via Wikipedia.

St. Francis statue. Image via Wikipedia.

Initiated in 1931 by a convention of ecologists in Florence, Italy, seeking to bring awareness to the plight of endangered species, World Animal Day is now held every October 4th, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). Known as the patron saint of animals due to a popular collection of folktales, Fioretti di San Francesco (Little Flowers of St. Francis), penned a century and a half after his death, St. Francis is said to have preached the duty of men to protect nature as well as the duty of non-human animals to give glory to God. In recognition of his feast day, many churches hold a Blessing of the Animals, which has also been carried over to synagogues and other places of worship along with nondenominational community centers, animal shelters, and parks.

This is the Blessing of Pets commonly read over animal visitors at Franciscan churches:

Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.

The mission statement of World Animal Day designates October 4th as a day “to celebrate animal life in all its forms; to celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom; to acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives – from being our companions, supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives; [and] to acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives.” On October 1st, the National Museum of Animals & Society launched Souls Awakened, an online community art and photo exhibition designed to show and tell the individual stories of animals that have changed how we feel, how we think, how we act, and who we are. While you spend time today reflecting on how animals have impacted your life, consider contributing your image and story to our collection and becoming a part of our shared history.

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