It was very nearly renamed ‘Wet Pets on the Steps,’ but shortly before Belfast Cathedral’s Blessing of the Pets event got underway on October 4, the clouds cleared and the rain stopped pouring down.
The Blessing of the Pets, coinciding with St Francis of Assisi Day, has been a firm fixture in the calendar at St Anne’s since it was first held in 2017. And while the pandemic meant the service could not go ahead as normal, the Cathedral wished to fulfil its annual mission to bless our pets at this time of the year.
The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, and Dean’s Vicar, the Rev Canon Mark Niblock, moved this year’s event outside to the Cathedral steps, and invited animal lovers to bring their pets along.
With the pandemic and the heavy rain earlier in the day, numbers were down, but there was a constant stream of pets arriving for a blessing from 2pm. Some were regular attendees at the annual service, others were bringing their furry friends along for the first time.
In the past, the pets and their human friends have enjoyed some magnificent themed music at the service, with furry, feathered, hairy, scaled and shelled creatures all enjoying a blessing at the end. This year, there was no music, just softly spoken words of blessing bestowed on each animal individually by the Dean and Dean’s Vicar.
Among the attendees were some cute canines whose lives had already been blessed by those who cared for them – San, with just three legs, rescued from China; and 13-year-old Sherry, a red poodle wrapped warmly in a woollen coat. Sherry, who has a bad heart, spent the early part of her life imprisoned in a tiny cage until her rescue by her devoted owner.
Dean Forde said that despite Covid-19 restrictions meaning the Blessing of the Pets could not go ahead in its normal format, the Cathedral wanted to recognise how significant people’s pets have been to them, particularly during the months of lockdown.
“This opportunity for thanksgiving and blessing celebrates the importance of pets and working animals in the lives of so many people in these very difficult times,” said Dean Forde.