Animal blessing is an old folk custom in this region. There is a clear awareness in people that we cannot control life and that we depend on each other, inculding our animals.
In the stories of people who visit the monastery of Wittem, you clearly hear their desire to be heard in their concerns and hopes. A blessing, that expresses that our Creator is connected with us and takes care of all living beings on earth, brings peace. People no longer feel themselves alone. ‘Someone’ is going with them.
In some Franciscan parishes—whose founder preached to the birds and fishes—blessing the animals was very common. For years there was also a tradition of horse blessing in the monastery of Wittem and of course the riders were also blessed. Redemptorists made people feel in this way that they have an eye and an ear for what is going on among them. This tradition of blessing people and their animals was picked up again last year on the feast of Saint Francis, October 4. And also this year there was an animal blessing in the weekend of October 3. In this way the redemptorists are trying to be close to people, with their worries and desires.
So there was a blessing of animals on Sunday afternoon, on the church square in front of the Saint Alphonsus Church, and also a blessing of people who care for their animals with love and fidelity. Before the blessing started, there was a pleasant gathering of animal lovers with their dogs, rabbits and even a bird in a cage.
Fr. Jan Hafmans, provincial superior, took all the time to speak with everyone before giving the blessing. And of course there was also something to drink and to eat for the many animals.
from the Monastery of Wittem, Netherlands