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Blessing creatures great and small — but what about blowflies?
by Graeme J. Davidson,
19 May 2007

Would this buzzing nuisance that gets bad press for spreading disease get a church blessing? Or is my unusual pet an instrument of evil and the animal equivalent of a Nazi SS trooper? If my blowfly got a blessing, would that make it more loving? And would it make us more willing to accept this pest as a gift from God?

....Animal companions are family. They’re a blessing to us and the Church sometimes returns the favour by holding blessing services for pets.
....Is this in the forlorn hope that Assassin, the pit bull, will never bare his fangs at nice people? Or that Tiddles, the cat, won’t use the lounge suite as a scratching post or ravish our bird population? Is the church climbing on an environment – or maybe just a cuteness – bandwagon? Or is it simply to thank God for these special creatures. Surely that’s appropriate. Or is it?
....Last Saturday, plenty of animals – and human friends dressed in dog costumes – turned out for the unveiling of a statue of Paddy the Wanderer at Wellington’s Queen’s Wharf and for a pets blessing service with the clergy and choir of Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. Paddy, a ginger-brown Airedale terrier was the pet of a sailor’s daughter in the 1920s. When she died of pneumonia Paddy continued to visit the wharves and was adopted by the Wellington wharfies, who let him hitch rides on ships, taxis and even the open cockpit of a biplane. They should have called him Rover.
....Minx, Lackey, Felix, and scores of other canines came for a blessing on Saturday. Clem, the only cat, had no incentive to risk any of her nine lives encountering an Assassin. So, she remained snug in her basket.
....But what about blessing the zillions of animals that aren’t pets? Well, yes it seems only right and proper that we include working animals and cuddly-looking endangered species like pandas and snow leopards, pretty butterflies and those gentle giants of the ocean the Japanese insist on killing for their dubious research.
....When told about this blessing service, I mischievously asked what would happen, hypothetically speaking of course, if I were to bring my pet blowfly. Would this buzzing nuisance that gets bad press for spreading disease get a church blessing? Or is my unusual pet an instrument of evil and the animal equivalent of a Nazi SS trooper? If my blowfly got a blessing, would that make it more loving? And would it make us more willing to accept this pest as a gift from God? After all, we used to treat sharks as the enemy; now we accept them as necessary. And the choir on Saturday did sing about “all things great and small” and that “the Lord God made them all”.
....Naturally, my questions were seen as facetious. I was reminded that the ill effects of blowflies, rats and those malicious bacteria that lay us low are no different from the misery we humans can create. That got me thinking of wars and conflicts, illness and death through injustice, poverty and greed, as well as our destruction of the environment.
....Others reminded me of the bible story of three men thrust into a burning furnace, who could still sing of how all creatures should bless God and praise him. “Does that mean,” I responded, “that the prey praises God as the raptor swoops with talons outstretched? Or should we praise God with animal sacrifices.” Apparently not.
....Doesn’t the bible tell us humans to subdue and rule the earth? Yes, it does, but we also have a responsibility to take care of the earth for the benefit of all, including future generations of not only humans but all living things. And yes, my blowfly would get a blessing as a reminder that we, too, are animals who can do bad things, and that we have a responsibility to care for one another and God’s creation.
....No blessing of pets would be complete without mentioning St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. St Francis did appreciate how nature is interconnected and he wrote about how God’s creation should praise the creator and inspire us to greater love and respect for our world. Nevertheless, many of his environmental attitudes were common for the thirteenth century and, alas, most of the stories of his special relationship with animals are pure myth.
....What, then, was the purpose of blessing the pets? The prayer that Cathedral priest assistant and chaplain Ellie Sanderson offered was, “Thanks for the life of our pets, for the joy they bring us, for the love they encourage in us and for the fun and laughter we enjoy through them.”
.... That says it all.






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