SGU Blesses Animals on Feast of St. Francis
Fr. Nicholas Ast performed blessings for a menagerie of animals associated with St. Gregory’s and Fr. Paul’s therapeutic riding work at the arena, including a number of horses, three dogs, two goats, a pot-bellied pig, a hamster and two hermit crabs.
“St. Francis is universally loved and recognized as the patron saint of animals,” Fr. Nicholas said. “St. Francis lived a very simple life, and there are stories associated with St. Francis that involve animals.
“There is one famous episode where he preaches to the birds. Another where a town was being terrorized by a wild and ravenous wolf, and St. Francis went up to the wolf and closed its jaw, and the wolf laid down at St. Francis’ feet. St. Francis has always had this association with nature, with creation, so to have a blessing of pets and animals on the Feast of St. Francis is very appropriate for us here at St. Gregory’s.”
This is the first year that a blessing of the animals has been performed at St. Gregory’s. The idea for such an event was generated by Dr. Madeline Rugh, who was assisted in coordinating the event by Terry Sharp, Horsemanship Director for Charham Therapeutic Arena.
“I think Terry, who’s in charge of the stables out here, and Dr. Rugh, are very interested in making this an annual event,” said Fr. Nicholas, “not only for the campus, but for all of Shawnee.”
St. Gregory’s animals were blessed on Thursday, Oct. 3, at the arena with the aid of members of one of Dr. Rugh’s classes. The campus community, the general public and the animals of SGU community members were all blessed at a gathering in front of Benedictine Hall on Friday, Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis.
“My family had several pets,” Fr. Nicholas said. “While we were growing up, we always had dogs around and being able to bless the animals is a little bit like being able to bless the pets from my childhood.”