Solvang mission gives animals kind attention and treats
Dogs and cats had a great reason to wag their tail or purr Sunday in Solvang.
After all, they knew they were blessed.
They sat on the back seats of cars or on the laps of their owners, who drove to the Santa Ines Mission and rolled down the windows. There in the parking lot, Father Bobby Barbato sprinkled holy water on the animals and said a blessing.
The kind priest also gave the pets a treat.
Nearby, Father Bob Kose stood and watched the procession of cars on a special day.
The day meant a lot to friendly dogs like Chiquita, 17 months old and sitting on owner Darlene Bauer’s lap. Father Barbato blessed Chiquita, who seemed happy about the experience.
Another dog, Bruce, watched with interest when Father Barbato blessed him. He sat on the back seat, behind owners John and Theresa Phillips.
Many motorists drove their cars to the mission on a hot day, but the pets enjoyed the rides in the air-conditioned vehicles. To be safe during the COVD-19 pandemic, the pet owners and priests wore masks.
At one point, Susan Ottobah left her cat to take a photo of her old dog, Emma, being blessed by Father Barbato while Father Kose stood.
The blessings were conducted on Sunday, which marks the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
Known as the patron saint of animals, St. Francis wrote a “Canticle of the Creatures”: “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”
At Sunday’s blessing, a little statue of St. Francis stood next to the table with the treats for cats and dogs.
St. Francis’ love for animals, of course, is shared by countless people, and blessings of them have long been conducted around the world and in Santa Barbara County.
In fact, animal blessings have become a local tradition among Catholic and Protestant churches, from St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos to the Santa Barbara Mission.
Franciscan churches have featured a special prayer for the animals. It goes like this, according to fransicanmedia.org.:
“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet.
“By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation.
“Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”