According to legend, St Francis of Assisi once lived in a town terrorized by a wolf. Upon hearing his neighbors’ complaints, he went up to the hills and led the beast back to the startled townsfolk. He then made a pact between the people and the predator. In exchange for regular meals and protection from the town dogs, the wolf agreed to no longer hunt them or their flocks. As a final sign of protection, Francis blessed the wolf.
On Saturday, October 13th, the same love for animals and community was on display at the Annual Blessing and Remembrance of the animals at the Church of the Ascension. Dozens of Greenpointers and friends came into the Kent Street church with their four-legged companions for an infusion of hope and a special service for those that had passed.
“This truly is one of the greatest feast days for animals,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who was led in by his 10-year-old German Shepherd mix, McDonald. (He adopted the dog from Williamsburg shelter BARC eight years ago.) “St Francis loved them all. All the churches do the blessing, but here the pets are allowed to enter and be treated like God’s creatures.”
For Father John Merz, the most meaningful moment was the remembrance. “There is no public or communal space to gather together for the loss of animal you’ve loved,” the pastor said, scratching the head of his 9-year-old Burnese Mountain Dog, Lola. “Some churches treat it as a cute, throw away service. We chose to make it solemn and celebratory, as real as the love we have for our animals.”
Andi Costa, a Manhattanite visiting her friend in Greenpoint that afternoon, was impressed by the friendly atmosphere of the service. “It was nice to see all the families together with their pets,” the Financial District resident said. “And I appreciated that they gave a blessing to the animals that had passed.”
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