An Animal Blessing for All Creatures

An Animal Blessing for All Creatures


In honor of the Feast of St. Francis, our animal chaplain offers an alternative animal blessing—and suggests that you utilize it, too.

In St Francis’s Canticle of the Creatures, he remarked, “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.” Inspired by these words, written in the 13th century, humans continue to flock to Franciscan churches each fall, hoping to have their pets blessed. A friar, dressed in the traditional brown robe and white cord, will offer prayerful words along the lines of: “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 Saint 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." (Courtesy of

Generally, dogs and cats are the recipients of these blessings, often receiving a bit of a holy water spritz. I’ve heard of hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs being taken to churches, and occasionally a horse. Now, whether these animals themselves appreciate these blessings, we can’t really know. I can surmise that many cats would prefer we skip the holy water. And I can presume that dogs who love car rides probably enjoy this day.

Who Are Blessings For?

The more animal blessings I preside at, the more I think they are as much for the people as for the animals. Pet blessings assure animal guardians that a church (or other religious institution) values the four-legged family members of their congregants. For many people, hearing spiritual leaders bless animals validates the human-animal bond from a theological perspective.

This is important, because “the Church” has long been in tension with what to do about animals. Indeed, some animal blessings began as protests to church teachings which suggested that animals did not have souls.

In the late 1800s, animal advocates began asserting that animals had a right not to be treated cruelly or callously. They protested the atrocities they saw in industrialized food production, horse-drawn carriages, and dog-fighting rings, creating organizations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many of these early advocates drew on their Christian values for arguments in favor of animal welfare.

In a contrarian response, Pope Pius IX (serving from 1846-1878) asserted that dogs and other animals were devoid of consciousness. A hundred years later, Pope John Paul II reversed Pius’s statement, suggesting animals did have souls. Pope Benedict later made a few notable comments about caring for “all of God’s creatures.”

Pope Francis’s 2015 Laudato Si encouraged the same, calling out how climate changes have caused “grave implications” for animals alongside humans. He addressed extinction and loss of habitat. Further, he stated, “Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity.’” (Read the full encyclical text here.)

Francis will soon release a highly anticipated second part of Laudato Si. Yet, unless the Catechism of the Catholic Church is altered at the same time, we can expect a continuation of the paradox present in Catholic regard for animals, which privileges human concerns over those of our “brother and sister creatures.” While the Catechism suggests humans are to be kind and gentle to animals and overtly states, “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly,” the text also legitimizes the use of animals in ways that cause them suffering, such as in Big Agriculture and Big Pharma. Further, the Catechism states that we should not “spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery.”

In sum, according to the Catholic Church, we should be kind to animals so long as it doesn’t take away from human needs and desires. Unsurprisingly, this viewpoint extends far beyond Catholic beliefs. Through close study, we see that adherents of most religious paths tend to concur. So do many atheists. We should value sentient life—as long as it doesn’t interfere with our own human needs.

We go on blessing our pets, somewhat oblivious to (or flat out ignoring) what is happening to the rest of the animals included in references to “Creation.”

So, as the season of animal blessing comes upon us this year, I ask an important question on the animals’ behalf: What might it be like to go beyond blessing just our pets? To stand up in our churches, synagogues, temples, meditation centers, and even our homes to offer a blessing to the full diversity of life normally collapsed into a category called “Creation” or “Nature”?

Please enjoy and use the blessing below. Adapt it for your use. Include your native wildlife. Then rally your spiritual community around this practice. After you bless all those cats and dogs, make a PowerPoint presentation or video using images of the species mentioned. See just how far you can extend the power of blessing into the more-than-just-human world.

A Blessing for All Creatures

Today, we bless the incredible diversity of life on this planet. Many of these awe-inspiring creatures are often invisible to us either due to their location or our inability to see them even when they are present.

Today, we join our voices together to extend compassion from our hearts to species of all shapes, sizes, locations, and colors, including:

The Purple Beings, such as the Violet-backed Starling, Orchid Dottyback, and Purple Firefish.

And the Blue Beings, like the Blue Jay, Little Blue Heron, Eastern Indigo Snake, the Blue Whale, and even the Blue Poison Dart Frog.

We shower praise on the Green Beings, including the European Green Lizard, Green-headed Tanager, and great green Bush Cricket.

We stand in wonder of the presence of Yellow Beings, thinking of the Golden Retriever, Banana Slug, Asian Golden Weaver, Panamanian Golden Frog, Apple Snail, Yellow Tang, Yellowjacket, and Wasp.

We share joy for Orange Beings, like the Sumatran Orangutan, Orange Nectar Bat, and the Monarch Butterfly.

We share lovingkindness to the Red Beings, from the Scarlet Ibis and Tomato Frog to the Red Kangaroo.

In this moment, we also consider those we have not specifically named. We think of the 20 quintillion other-than-human beings whom we share this planet with.

May all these beings be free from pain. May they be free from suffering. May they be happy, joyous, and free. Amen.

Want more resources for blessing animals? Read Animal Blessings.

An Animal Blessing for All Creatures

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