October 2011

All God’s Creatures

From guinea pigs to draft horses—blessing the beasts across the Adirondacks

The Flanigan family’s Great Dane mix Newton joins a menagerie of pets—plush panda included—to be blessed by Father John Yonkovig outside St. Agnes Catholic School in Lake Placid.

The Catholic church canonized Francis of Assisi 783 years ago. Today the patron saint of the animals has universal appeal. That’s why on or around October 4, St. Francis’s feast day, all manner of faiths celebrate his message of respecting and pro­tecting earthly creatures with a blessing of the animals.

In the Adirondacks that might mean a prayer or a sprinkling of holy water not just for cats and dogs, but sometimes for snakes and lizards collected from these woods. Last year at Newcomb United Methodist Church, Percherons McGinty and Black Ice—who, with their human Dave O’Don­­nell, deliver visitors to Great Camp Santanoni—waited patiently outside for their time with Pastor Carol Ames. Ames also serves Long Lake Calvary United Methodist Church, where she’s welcomed earthworms from a par­ishio­ner’s garden, a pot-bellied pig and rabbits. “It was a blessing to me to bless them,” she says. “‘All God’s critters got a place in the choir.’”

During Ticonderoga’s First United Methodist Church’s blessing of the animals Reverend Scott Tyler prayed for each creature and its owner, “that they’ll live together in God’s grace and harmony.”

The blessings of St. Agnes Cath­olic Church’s Father John Yon­kovig happen in the parking lot of the Lake Placid church and its elementary school, providing what he calls “a teachable mo­ment for children”—some of whom bring their most beloved stuffed animals. “Pets are a source of great comfort and joy,” he says. “We as humans are challenged to be good stewards.”

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