It was a blessing to be at Rolling Hills Zoo Saturday afternoon, literally. The animals, and many of their keepers, were blessed. Father Benjamin Thomas from Christ Cathedral performed blessings on many of the animals throughout the zoo.
Father Benjamin visited and blessed the big cats, the painted dogs, the reptiles, the primates, the camels, the rhinos, the ostriches, and the giraffes. Along the way, he blessed multiple other animals that he encountered. .
As Father Benjamin stopped at the various exhibits, he learned a little bit about each animal he was blessing, including their history at the zoo. He then offered a blessing to each animal, and in some instanced their keeper.
Father Benjamin’s tour ended with the bears. As Andean Bear “Boo Boo” stretched his neck to watch from his hammock, he received a blessing.
The blessing of animals was in honor of St. Francis. 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 in a grassy area, where Father Benjamin offered a blessing and a prayer for Rolling Hills Zoo, and for all zoos around the world..