Monday, October 6, 2008


Most of you know that the most important "souvenirs" we brought home with us from Turkey were our two cats, Tigger and Cipsi. By and large, Turks do not see cats as domesticated pets. Cats are given some measure of protection because, as I recall, there is some reference in the Koran to the prophet interacting with a cat; however, for all intents and purposes they are feral cats, living on the streets, feeding out of trash bins and dying young. Although initially we thought we didn't want to be tied down by having to care with animals, though various circumstances we ended up with the two who over their lifetime provided us with joy -- and yes, with blessings.

Cipsi 1992-2002
Tigger 1991 - 2008

But we considered, too, that they were the luckiest cats ever to be born in Turkey and they were blessed by us. And we told them that often, and always when we accommodated their silly habits and desires "just because."

Once a year - in October - the Catholic Church, as well as many other churches and organizations, set aside a day for "The Blessing of the Animals." Not being Catholic, Jerry and I were unaware of this particular event until one year we inadvertently went to Olvera Street in Los Angeles on that particular day and saw one of the most amazing parades we'd ever seen. Lined up along the street were people with animals of every sort and style. The line snaked around to the patio area in front of the church, where one of the Catholic officials was pronouncing a blessing on every animal. The strangest thing, however, was not so much the animals that were there but the little effigies people carried for animals that were no longer living. Those got blessed also. One lady, who later ate her lunch in a booth near ours at a local restaurant, had taken a small paper bag, drawn a face and ears on it, and wore it on her hand to receive its blessing. At the restaurant she sat the bag in its own chair. Did it look like her deceased dog? To her, it still was her dog, I'm sure.

The Blessing of the Animals, as nearly as I understand it, is celebrated on St. Francis of Assisi day. Its biblical justification apparently is understood this way:

" The range of objects that come under the influence of the Church's blessing is as comprehensive as the spiritual and temporal interests of her children. All the lower creatures have been made to serve man and minister to his needs. As nothing, then, should be left undone to enhance their utility towards this end, they are placed in a way under the direct providence of "Every creature of God is good. . .", as St. Paul says "for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

In year's past, Cardinal Mahoney offered this as a blessing:

"Almighty Father, we bless these animals for all they have done in supplying our food, in carrying our burdens, providing us with clothing and companionship and tendering a service to the human race since the world began."

I have absolutely no disagreement with any of these blessing or sentiments or events. I have never been without a dog or a cat or a canary (sometimes all at the same time) and hope I'll be able to keep one beside me as I travel into my old age.

I do need to share with you a couple of funny pictures I found that illustrate just how seriously some people take this event.

If you can take your eyes off the size of that snake, you can see a pretty good sized horn and tiny goat's feet (or perhaps sheep's feet) from the next-in-line-to-be-blessed animal. And finally....

How fitting for Olvera street this fella' is, sombrero and all. I guess we'd have to say that this truly is the Blessing of the Animals in LA-LA land.

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