Blessings be upon you

The Rev. Wendy Watson sprinkles holy water onto canine parishioners at last year's Blessing of the Animals service at Grace Episcopal Church on Spring Street.

A special service was held Sunday at Grace Episcopal Church on Spring Street. And, based upon the reaction of some of the parishioners, it was an inspirational, tail-wagging affair.

It was the annual Blessing of the Animals in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the 12th-century friar who abandoned a life of luxury to live in poverty. According to Catholic historians, St. Francis cared for the poor and sick, preached sermons to animals, and praised all creatures as brothers and sisters under God. He was canonized in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX and today is recognized in both the Catholic and Anglican churches as the patron saint of animals and the environment.

Fast forward 800 years to St. Helena and Rev. Wendy Watson was sprinkling holy water onto a number of fur-clad pets and other animals that had led their masters to the annual ceremony. The creatures all seemed extremely curious about the sudden drops of water, sitting beside their owners on the church’s labyrinth. They seemed attentive and respectful throughout the 35-minute ceremony.

According to a press release, a portion of the collection plate would be donated to We Care Animal Rescue, the local no-kill, free-roam shelter on Charter Oak Avenue.

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Tom Stockwell is currently a staff writer for the St. Helena Star. He is an author of fiction and non-fiction books and has been a working journalist for a variety of technical publications as well as a consultant for numerous wineries in the Napa Valley.