Blessing of animals brings hope of unity to troubled area
BALTIMORE, Md. (CNS) – In a Baltimore neighborhood not always associated with peace and harmony, Catholic school students opened the doors of St. Ambrose Church Oct. 4 to find area residents eager to have their household pets blessed.
Though area resident Tyra Holland is neither a parishioner of St. Ambrose nor Catholic, she did want her beloved 3-month-old German shepherd puppy, Maximus, to receive a blessing from Capuchin Franciscan Father Paul Zaborowski, pastor of the church.
"There's a lot of uncertainly in this world and lord knows there's a lot of uncertainty in (the Baltimore neighborhood of) Park Heights," Holland said. "I didn't know the church blessed the animals, but I'm sure glad they did this today. I'll be back when they do it again next year."
The annual blessing of the animals' service is particularly poignant in this northwest Baltimore neighborhood that has been plagued with poverty, violence, crime and murder, Father Zaborowski said.
By including the children of the St. Ambrose Catholic School in the blessing outside after Mass, he wanted to demonstrate the caring and protective feelings people have for pets and spread that mind-set throughout the community.
"In this neighborhood, people often get dogs for protection and don't always treat them with the love and compassion they should," Father Zaborowski said. "We're hoping that by being this visible, we can breed civility, and perhaps do some evangelization in the process."
Though the students in the school didn't bring their dogs, cats and rabbits to the church for the blessing, they did carry stuffed animals to represent their pets at home.
"That would have been a little too chaotic to have all of their pets here in the church," said Pam Sanders, principal of the school. "But, the students have a fish and a lizard they take care of here at school, so they were on hand." As was the pastor's pet parrot, Suzie.
Area residents brought their dogs, fish and parakeets to the front of the church, and after a few prayers, Father Zaborowski collected holy water on a sponge connected to a long staff and flung the precious liquid into the crowd.
During his homily, Father Zaborowski reminded the children their pets are always happy to see them, provide them with protection and bring so much joy to their lives.
"I challenge you today to love your dog a little bit more," Father Zaborowski said. "Pet your cat a little bit more. Pray for our neighbors, including those selling drugs and causing violence. We pray they have a conversion out of their darkness."
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Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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