The Blessing of the Animals
by Laurent Weichberger - January 19, 2010
On a chilly and windy Fall afternoon, Saturday, October 3, 2009 a very special group started to gather under the trees of Bushmaster Park in East Flagstaff. The flyers posted around town attracted the community by promising, "An interfaith event for the blessing of animals with leaders from different faith traditions." Faith leaders from all mystical traditions came together, in love and harmony, for the purpose of standing together to literally bless the animals brought to us by the public. All animals were welcome (as long as they were either on a leash or in a cage).
First we were all welcomed by Sherry Golden and Tish Bogan-Ozmun of the Shared Earth Network, the primary sponsor of the event. A beautiful Blessing Prayer, written for the event by Sherry Golden, was read out by her in a call and response fashion.
Sherry then in turn introduced the blessors, and we each gave a few words to those gathered about our spiritual traditions. I was honored to represent the Meher Baba tradition. Other faiths represented were: Greg Long (Navajo Christian), Dahamane Mahamane (Muslim), Ken McIntosh (Christian Protestent), Jean Myers (Jewish), Robi Salazar & Helen Jones (Buddhist), Lilly Weichberger (Celtic Pagan), Deacon Larry Whelan (Christian Catholic).
Before I share more about the event and the experiences there, let me just point out that aside from the astounding fact of how many faiths were embodied, eight total, we have come full circle in that a Celtic Pagan and Christian blessors worked side by side, honoring one another by their very presence, laughing and praying over the animals that day. Three hundred years ago, Christians were killing pagans in Salem, Massachusetts. Some pagans, the world over, are still persecuted today. Such simple forms of healing go out to the world in waves.
Speaking of waves, the afternoon officially started with the sound waves of the live musical group Spining Jimmy (Charly Spining & Jimmy Debois), who used electric instruments (powered by a solar electric generator) to serenade us. As the music warmed us up for the main events of the day, people became eager to listen to who was present for blessings, and bring their animals forward.
||Before the actual blessing commenced there was a presentation with llamas, given by Eric Souders. Then the children were invited to have free llama rides, as the llama's pulled a cart around the park, with children (including my son Cyprus and his girlfriend Ophek) sitting in the cart for a ride. The local 4-H Club members helped organize the rides, and the kids loved it.
My experience of blessing the animals this year was that there was a steady stream of dogs, with very few other animals, and one woman rather sheepishly told me that her dog refused to get out of her car (in the parking lot) asking me instead if I would bless her dog where he remained (in the car!). Of course I said yes, and we had a nice session in the parking lot instead.
One fellow brought his dog, "Satchel," to me specifically for a "Meher Baba's love" blessing. He explained that in the 1960s there were many so-called gurus from India going around the world, but he always felt Meher Baba was the genuine article. I was thrilled to spend time with Satchel and his master and, as always, did my best to bless this fine creature of God, a noble canine.
While thinking about what to share with the reader about that day, I felt I could not be honest without stating that I felt the poignant absence of a Native American representative of the indigenous faith of this land. After all, we live at the heart center of the Arizona tribes spiritual pinnacle, the San Francisco peaks. Shouldn't we have someone with us to share about that mystic way, whether Dine, Hopi, or Zuni, or some other path?
I imagined instead, how they would feel standing with us, blessing animals that day, and I came up with this: It is actually the animals which bless humans with their presence. How many times have we been graced by the presence of a hawk, falcon, or golden eagle circling high above, a bear roaming on the mountain, a wolf spotted in the distant snow, or a playful dolphin at the ocean water's edge? Thank you, all you animals, for blessing me with your presence.
Lastly, there were a number of exhibits, by several animal advocacy groups, including:
The Animal Defense League of Arizona (www.adlaz.org)
Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project (www.gcwolfrecovery.org)
Arizona Llama Rescue (www.azllamarescue.org)
Second Chance Center for Animals (www.secondchancecenter.org)
Northern Arizona Audubon Society (www.nazaudubon.com)
Habitat Harmony (www.habitatharmony.org)
And of course our primary sponsor:
Shared Earth Network (www.sharedearthnetwork.org)
One funny but serious exhibit story from the event is that, by profession, I am a web application designer and developer for an international investment bank. People at work are usually surprised by my spiritual life, and my spiritual companions are usually astonished by my technical work life. We have a technical design pattern called the Proxy Pattern, whereby a software object is invoked instead of the actual object, because the real object is too distant. So all that is done to the proxy eventually reaches the real object. Let's just say - it works.
Well, at the Blessing of the Animals, there was a Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project mascot walking around the event, dressed in a giant grey wolf suit, with long wolf hair, and giant wolf eyes (it actually looked kind of angry and mean). I should know, because my three year old son thought it was real, and he freaked out! In any case, I was asked by this wolf advocacy group to bless the mascot (as a proxy) to subsequently reach out from there and bless the whole wolf recovery project effort. I took this blessing very seriously, and embraced the wolf, offering sincere prayers for this ongoing advocacy work.
|| So, what did I ultimately experience by participating in this glorious event? That those that joined us, four legged and two legged, for this joyous celebration of all God's creatures, in the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi, indeed left the park uplifted. Amen.