Blessing of the Animals scheduled for Sunday at Washington National Cathedral

Rain from the remnants of Ian is expected to douse the D.C. area on Sunday, but that won’t stop the annual Blessing of the Animals at Washington National Cathedral.

“The blessing is on, no matter what the hurricane decides to do; we’re going to be moving it indoors slightly to our bus garage. And, we figure if Noah and his animals could spend 40 days on an ark, we can spend about 45 minutes in a bus garage,” Kevin Eckstrom, National Cathedral spokesperson, said.

The event on Sunday begins at 2 p.m. with a very brief service of prayer.

“And then all the clergy will fan out to all of the pets that are assembled and offer a blessing both on them with some holy water, but also on their owners,” Eckstrom said.

Calling the Blessing of the Animals one of the cathedral’s most fun days, Eckstrom describes it as a joyous celebration that is an organized chaos of four legs and feathers. The event tends to attract more dog owners, but those who have cats also attend, and past events have even welcomed butterflies, lizards, fish, birds, gerbils and hamsters — anything that you can think of that relies on human care.

“And it’s anything goes. So if your dog is barking, don’t worry about it. If your cat is curled up in a ball doesn’t want to come out, don’t worry about it. It’s a lot of kids and a lot of our favorite people in the world who are our pets,” Eckstrom noted.

Everyone is welcome.

“You don’t have to be a particularly religious person. You don’t have to be a Christian. You don’t have to necessarily believe in much of anything at all to come and get a blessing. But this is a chance for all of us to pause and give thanks for the four-legged creatures in our lives, who make our lives a whole lot better,” he said.

Why does the Cathedral hold the event?

“Part of the reason for the event is to give God thanks for the special animals in our lives — the pets. If you think about it, the reason why you have a pet is because they bring you joy, and they bring you comfort, and they bring you a happy wagging tail when you walk in through the door. And part of that is a reflection of the joy that you can find in God, but also a joy that you can find in all manner of creation,” he said.

Where does the tradition come from?

“The blessing of the animals is always tied to the celebration and remembrance of Saint Francis of Assisi. And he’s best known as the guy who spent his time talking to plants and animals. But what we celebrate is his teaching and his ability to find beauty in all parts of God’s creation, particularly the natural world and the animals and the pets that are a big part of our lives,” Eckstrom said.

Numbers of churches of multiple denominations regionwide hold the event. Check churches near you for information, if you want to participate.

National Cathedral is located at 3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW. On Sundays parking is free.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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