blessinganimals

Bless animals on St. Anthony’s feast

In the Roman Catholic calendar, January 17 is a special day dedicated to San Antonio de Abad, Saint Anthony Abbott or Anthony the Great. Abad is the patron saint of domestic animals or animals in general, of grave-diggers, the Patriarch of Monks, protector against fire, and is also considered as a healer of various skin diseases.

stanthonyAbad, who was an Egyptian Catholic monk, lived during the 3rd century AD. Similar to the stories of other early Catholic saints, he grew up in a wealthy family but eventually decided to give away his riches to the poor and had chosen to live a humble religious life.

During his lifetime, he was noted for spreading monasticism. But he is much more popular for spearheading the practice of asceticism or the renewal and reevaluation of one’s faith though nature by going and living in the wilderness.

Living in the wild, many believed he had blessed the animals he encountered. This is the reason why he became their patron saint. Saint Francis of Assisi is also associated with animal blessing but Saint Anthony is often preferred by Hispanics because he lived 900 years earlier than Saint Francis.

There are different celebrations during the Feast of San Antonio de Abad which are often times dependent on the traditions in each country. Two of the most notable are the activities held in Spain and Mexico together with the rest of Hispanic Catholics.

About a week before the day of Celebrations, equestrian exhibitions are performed on the streets of Spain. On the eve of the holiday, local communities create huge bonfires which also become the venue for merry making and feasting. On the 17th there are processions and eventually the blessing of animals.

Mexico and much of Latin American countries consider the day as the opportunity to have their domestic animals both pet and livestock blessed at local churches. During this day, animals are groomed and dressed up and some are even adorned with ribbons and bows before being presented to the priest for blessing. In recent years, even exotic pets like snakes, iguanas and other reptiles joined in the celebration. Farmers consider the blessing to help ensure a bountiful livestock production. Feasting and general merrymaking is also present during this special day.

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