On what turned out to be a blessing of an afternoon, animals at Rolling Hills Zoo, and some of their keepers, were blessed Saturday afternoon. The Rev. Robert Nelson Smith, President and CEO of Saint Francis Community Services, performed a blessing of the animals.
On what was a beautiful fall day, Father Bobby visited the tigers, apes, anteaters, aardvarks, camels, rhinos, giraffes, Andean bears, lions, the animals at Kid’s Country, and the painted dogs at the zoo. Along the way, he blessed multiple other animals that he encountered.
As Father Bobby stopped at the various exhibits, the animal keepers told him a little bit about each animal he was blessing, including their history at the zoo. Father Bobby then offered a blessing to each keeper.
The blessing of animals was in honor of St. Francis (d.1226). It developed as a direct result of St. Francis’s own understanding of the kinship shared by humans with all other creatures by virtue of having the same creator, God. Francis, who founded the Franciscan Order, was a great lover of animals and is even said to have preached to the birds about their duty to praise God. Although the specific customs about blessing animals vary from place to place, one common feature is that prayers are offered not only for the animals themselves but also for the people who care for them.
The blessings Saturday culminated at the African Painted Dogs Exhibit. Following a blessing, a brief ceremony of prayer was held.