St. Peter's to 'bless the animals' in the Falls

2017-10-05 | Niagara Gazette

Oct. 05--"There are two models in this world for unconditional love," says the Rev. Dr. Howard Whitaker of St. Peter's Episcopal Church. "One is God. The other is a good dog."

Whitaker and the congregation will welcome dogs, cats, livestock, birds, reptiles, fish, and other creatures great and small for their Blessing of the Animals at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The event will commemorate the Feast of Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) who is reported to have witnessed to his solidarity with all creation, preaching to birds and taming wild animals with his words.

"There is nothing strange about that," said Whitaker, who is also a psychiatric chaplain. "When's the last time you saw a dog house outside of a Peanuts cartoon? Our animals live with us as part of our families. As creatures of God, they teach us about companionship, humility and loyalty. They are more forgiving than are we. They make us better humans."

At St. Peter's service, stuffed animals accompanied by their young owners and photos of beloved pets who have died also will be welcome. There will be plenty of room for trailers and parking at the church. Treats for animals will be available.

What is the strangest animal Father Whitaker has ever blessed?

"I blessed black bears in New Jersey. Police K-9 dogs are pretty cool when they come. Hounds and horses are pretty traditional in hunt country, though I bless the fox or the coyote, too. I'm a beekeeper and bless hives all the time. But, snakes in hand still creep me out a little," says the cleric.

St. Peter's is located at 140 Rainbow Blvd. in downtown Niagara Falls. The blessing will be held on the lawn in front of the church.

"Dogs and cats will be praying together," Whitaker said. "It will be best if they are restrained."

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