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Blessing the animals

JANE STEBBINS
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Piney Acres 11-year-old Sarah Johnson brought Clide to Lord of the Mountain church Sunday morning where pastor Rich Mayfield blessed the feline, along with a score of canines, one equine, a love bird, a hamster, a Vietnemse pig and a hermit crab named Shelly.
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DILLON – A tiny hamster curled up in its cage was oblivious to the frenzy going on around it: a basset hound baying, a cat hissing at a nearby dog, a pair of poodles wrestling on the ground and a budgie squawking and bouncing around on the bars in its cage.But Sunday – St. Francis of Assisi Day – was a day for the animals at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon.”I love the joy we celebrate over creation, the sense of awe and wonder, the love people have for their pets and the love pets have for their people – it just overflows,” said Pastor Rich Mayfield. “It’s a good day – a great day.”At least 40 pets frolicked on the front lawn of the church waiting their turn to be blessed by Mayfield.Bob Johnson of Silverthorne said he was getting Bailey, a 2-year-old yellow lab, blessed so she would be a better dog.

“They give us joy,” said Breckenridge’s Jeanne Beitscher of the family’s cat, Cisco. “And this is a nice thing. All of God’s creatures could use a little help.”Ann Cornwell of Silverthorne said she brought her Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, Tusker, to the blessing of the animals because he’s getting older.Cara Camping just learned that her 5-year-old basset hound, Leo, has arthritis in his back legs.”Leo, Leo, Leo,” Mayfield said, petting the dog. “You are a blessing from God. May you be a blessing to your family.”St. Francis of Assisi is considered the patron saint of animals and the environment. He is said to have spoken to animals, calmed them and advised them to revel in God’s goodness.

According to the Web siteamericancatholic.org, the most well-known story is that of a wolf that was terrorizing the townsfolk of Gubbio.St. Francis went into the woods and made a pact with the wolf to stop killing people, and with the wolf at his side, Francis gave the town a sermon on the wondrous and fearful love of God, calling them to repent from their sins. Then he offered the town’s people peace on behalf of the wolf. The people promised in a loud voice to feed the wolf and in turn, St. Francis asked the wolf if he would live in peace under those terms.For two years, until its death, the wolf wandered among the townsfolk. They fed it, and it left them alone. The wolf’s peaceful ways had been a living reminder to them of the wonders, patience, virtues and holiness of St. Francis.”God loves all living things,” said Annie Black of Keystone, whose dog, Bogie, sat at her side. “We need to remind ourselves that creatures, our pets, the outdoors are all something we need to respect and take care of. He sure takes care of us.”For Koert Voorhees, the day was a christening day for Shelly, his hermit crab.

“That, and I thought it would be fun,” he said.Daniel Beitscher of Breckenridge brought his brother’s Italian greyhound, Stewie, to the blessing.”He’s my brother’s dog, and my brother’s out in California,” Beitscher said. “We’re passing the blessing through Stewie to him to keep him safe.””This is Domino,” said Cassie Biebl of Dillon Valley, stroking the black and white cat that hid its face under Biebl’s arm. “She’s 16 and she’s never been blessed. Plus, it’s kind of fun to bring the cat to church and put her through this.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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