Attention Animal Lovers: If you plan to be in New York City on October 7, 2012, or if you are lucky enough to live nearby, there’s an event you should not miss under any circumstances. The annual Blessing of the Animals pays homage to the 13th century Italian monk St. Francis of Assisi, often referred to as the Patron Saint of Animals. Every year, the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine — the world’s largest gothic cathedral — holds the ceremony.
New Yorkers and Their Animals
Like many New Yorkers, my husband Mark and I have always been animal lovers, but living in a 400 square foot apartment on the Upper West Side precluded having any as pets. Fortunately, as acolytes at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, we were part of the procession at the Blessing of the Animals, held on Saint Francis Day in October.
On this day, thousands of New Yorkers of different religious persuasions and nationalities bring their pets to The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral. Those who bring their pets will have them blessed at the end of the ceremony, but even if you don’t have pets, the ceremony, with its dance and music performances, should be on everyone’s bucket list.
As Cathedral acolytes we donned white robes and carried torches as we followed a procession, led by a large animal, such as an elephant or camel, and followed by llamas, sheep, goats and all sorts of exotic animals. The lead animal changes each year, which keeps it interesting. Next, an interpretive dance troupe proceeds down the aisle.
Paul Winter Consort
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine is one of the city’s most stunning and interesting pieces of architecture. It was founded in 1897, and boasts a rich and colorful history. The building also serves as a performance space for music, dance and dramatic events.
The Cathedral, as well as the blessing of the animals, embodies what one New York mayor describes the city as a “gorgeous mosaic” of cultures. Notice the menorah, and the Japanese vase on the altar. This intermingling of humans of different religions and nationalities, along with animals of different species confirms that we can in fact create a peaceable kingdom.