Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bless the donkeys

Today is the Catholic feast day of Francis of Assisi. He lived from 1181 until Oct. 4, 1226 and was the founder of the monastic order which bears his name. This painting of him is in the Franciscan monastery near my village.

St. Francis is the patron saint of animals. He spoke to animals as "brother wolf" and "sister bird," preached to the animals, saw all of creation as inherently good, and was exceptional in his emphasis on the obligation of all animal life toward praising the Creator.

In many countries pets are taken to church on this day to be blessed.
I have never heard of it being done in Israel, so permit me to take you to Australia instead for just this one post.
During the month that I lived as a volunteer at the Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary in New South Wales, a priest came to dedicate the new statue of St. Francis in the garden.

He then entered the barn and shpritzed the water (did the asperges ceremony) on about a hundred of these dear donkeys.

I found a Jewish website that says, "Even though we Jews do not have patron saints, we do have a similar concept to a saint’s feast day in the hillula. A hillula, though it originally referred to a celebration such as a wedding feast, was later adapted to annual rejoicing on the anniversary of the death of an important Rabbi."

They suggest making a hillula for Rav Kook, the first chief rabbi of Eretz Israel, who saw "a vital symbiosis, both ecologically and theologically, between human and non-human animals" that would include a yearly blessing of the pets as follows:

Blessed are You, Holy Source,
Maker of all living creatures.
On the fifth and sixth days of creation,
You called forth fish in the sea,
birds in the air and animals on the land.
You inspired us to call all animals brothers and sisters.
We ask You to bless these animals
By the power of Your love,
enable them to live fully in praise to Your Name
May we always praise You
for all Your beauty in creation.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, in all your creatures!
. . . (adapted from Catholic prayer for Blessing Animals)


fishing guy said...

Dina: It looks like you were one with the dokeys, how cool to get in the mix.

Dina said...

Right you are, Fishing Guy! It takes one to know one. :) I lived like a hermit in a little trailer with donkeys, kangaroos, and birds as my companions just outside the door. It was heaven.

Teena in Toronto said...

Nice idea for the theme!

I played too :)

Katney said...

I am always fascinated by your blog. You have lived and worked in interesting places and are open to understanding many different traditions. I feel we are kindred spirits in many ways.

Leora said...

I cannot imagine anyone taking animals to shul. Interesting idea, involving one's animals in the blessing. And I've never heard of a "hillula", but I have heard of celebrations on the anniversary of a death (always a bit strange, in my mind and in those of some others, if there is too much celebration). But no animals.

JC said...

This post tickled me since you were preaching to a cat in you last post. Love it. Thanks.

Sherry said...

Dina, All of your posts are so interesting, so beautiful, so historical, and spiritual. I love the ones that you tell about the creator's care of animals.

I love Donkeys too. Nothing cuter than a baby donkey. (whatever they are really called)

Müge Tekil said...

Very interesting religious ritual!

Webradio said...

Hello Dina !
This ritual is nice...
And the donkey beautiful...

See You later.

i beati said...

excellent both of these posts - secure memeories Sandy

Reader Wil said...

It's a lovely to have one's animals blessed. I am aprotestant, that means that, though we are taking more and more rituals of the Roman Catholic Church, we are still far more sober in our services. I like a lot of the rites in the R.C Church. We have no saints in our church. So we don't pray to any saints.
Thank you for your interesting post and how lovely to see an Australian photo!

Dina said...

Thanks Teena. Nice blog you have.

Katney, I'm honored to be counted among your kindred spirits.

Leora, I think that website group had the idea of having a pet blessing in the park, not inside a shul. I think hillula is largely a Sepharadi tradition. Like Hillula de-Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai on Lag Ba-Omer, in honor of the Tannaitic Rabbi who was supposed to have compiled the Zohar, and the Maimuna, a post-Pesach celebration of the life of Maimonides.

JC, I'm happy when readers are tickled. :)

Thanks Sherry! I think male baby donkey can be a colt, but really, what is the she-ass baby??

Shalom Muge, Webradio, I Beati, and Wil. Me too, I'm always fascinated by "smells and bells" and the drama of the Catholic Church.

ratmammy said...

this post reminded me of a friend who goes to a church that does the blessing of the animals on this day. i love it! great post.

Dina said...

Ratmammy, I have seen the blessing with the water done twice, at farm settings, but never at church. I wonder...

USelaine said...

It's beautiful to read, and your photos are a delight. Donkeys really are special creatures.

Kris said...

Henry got to pat some donkeys on the weekend, so I feel that this post is most appropriate!

Lea said...

"First you have to know that there is a spirit in the tree, and in the river, and in the sky. Then you can know that it's really all one spirit."
- Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi

I apply this philosophy to all our earthly allies; two leggeds, four leggeds, finned or feathered, sand and sky.

Kelly said...

Wonderful post! Love the theme and the way you connected the special time and the post together! Well done and lovely!

Urang Awak said...

Dear Dina,

I love your blog, photos and informations you share with us, the readers! Intrigued, I might say! Both photos and writings open my mind. Thanks