A Blessing Of The Animals Saint John The Divine Nyc An Amazing Discovery: The Blessing of the Animals at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

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An Amazing Discovery: The Blessing of the Animals at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

A few summers ago I read an article in a travel magazine that described an incredible event. The article claimed that a large cathedral in New York City invited thousands of animals into its sacred space. I just found this very unbelievable. Not only common animals such as dogs and cats were included, but all kinds of exotic species. That was the definition of “incompatible”. I mean how often have you come across an animal in a church, let alone a cathedral?

So I called the cathedral in question, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and asked if what I had read was true. Of course it was. I asked him if an elephant was actually allowed in the cathedral. Of course, and not only an elephant, but also many other exotic creatures. I thanked the lady for the information and expressed my disappointment in missing this event. She then informed me that this Blessing of the Animals on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi was an annual celebration that takes place in October. I was lucky!

That October I flew to New York to witness the Blessing of the Animals firsthand. On Sunday I took a cab to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the Northeast Side of Manhattan. I was amazed at the line of people and pets that stretched around the block. They had started lining up at 6am. I was lucky enough to sit down as the Cathedral was packed with thousands of people and over a thousand animals.

Dogs were everywhere, all kinds of breeds and mutts. The cats were on leashes and in crates to keep. Parrots sat on their heads and shoulders. Rabbits, hamsters, buggies, cockatiels, ferrets and turtles abounded. It was really overwhelming.

The atmosphere was thick with magic, spirit and wonderfully strong positive feelings. The animals got along well with each other and seemed to sense that something special was happening. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine itself is impressive in its grandeur and splendor. Apparently, the Statue of Liberty could fit in this Cathedral!

And the music was amazing. I was pleasantly surprised to see the famous jazz saxophonist Paul Winter leading his band the Paul Winter Consort. With them was a choir of nearly four hundred voices and a beautiful soloist. They perform the Missa Gaia or Mass of the Earth, an environmental mass that celebrates the Earth and its creatures. Woven throughout this powerful exotic music were the sounds and voices of animals including wolves, whales, eagles and snakes.

I will always remember the moment when the great bronze doors of the Cathedral slowly opened to reveal the silhouette of a massive elephant. The elephant strode to lead the Animal Procession. A hush fell over the thousands in attendance as the procession moved slowly down the aisle the length of two football fields to the altar. The procession included llamas, horses, cows, dogs, turtles, pot-bellied pigs, raptors, snakes and many others. Around the altar, these beautiful creatures were blessed by several bishops and priests.

After the official ceremony, a wonderful festival was held in the park like the grounds of the Cathedral. Here the Bishop of New York and several monks and priests give individual animal blessings to hundreds of pets brought in by the public. Most wanted health and happiness for their loved ones. Some brought sick, injured and old animals for a special blessing. And some had pictures of lost pets to bless in hopes of finding them.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine created the Blessing of the Animals for the feast of St. Francis to draw attention to environmental problems occurring on Earth. Saint Francis is, after all, the patron saint of ecology and animals. This is truly a wonderful, emotional and spectacular celebration that inspires one to better respect and love our planet and the beautiful creatures that inhabit it.

This was one of the most memorable days of my life and I’m sure if you love animals, great music and spectacles, you’ll find it incredible.

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