St. Francis of Assisi, an Italian monk who died 783 years ago, may be the most celebrated Christian voice to embrace the moral relevance of animals. According to stories, he often spoke of humans’ sacred relationship with other animals, and addressed those around him as “brother hare” or “my sisters, the birds.”
In honor of his feast day (Oct. 4th), churches around the world included a Blessing of the Animals in their Sunday service. At Cincinnati’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, a 5 PM service was held on the church’s front lawn beneath a bright evening sky, to the jaunty tunes of the city’s Celtic Ensemble. Sunlight raked across the faces of several dozen (mostly calm) dogs, a few cats who appeared anxiously outnumbered, and three fish traveling in Mason jars.