Yesterday, creatures of all kinds, from dogs and cats, to ferrets, pigs and partridges, arrived to the Church of San Anton in Madrid to receive a blessing in honor of the patron saint of animals. The day was marked with a parade for the animals and their owners alike to enjoy, in what has been a yearly tradition since the early nineteenth century in the Spanish capital. Despite the poor weather, animals of all shapes and sizes waited in line to pass the church's priest, who sprinkled them with holy water. There were unconfirmed reports that cats seemed particularly unappreciative of the gesture.San Anton, for whom the holiday is marked, was born in 3rd century Egypt. According to accounts, at a young age Anton set aside his earthly goods and led the life of a hermit, communing with nature much as the Franciscans would later. He was said to have a special relationship with wildlife--even curing them of blindness on a few occasions. It was said that he buried another popular saint with the help of two lions and other animals, hence his patronage over them.
One young pet owner was back to have her two cockatiels blessed by the priest after the positive effect it had on another pet the year before.
Mary, 16 years old:
I come by tradition and because I am a Christian. Last year my turtle had very good luck.
In fact, many who brought their animals to be blessed reported that their pets "did very well in 2009" since they had brought them in the year before, according to a report from Spain's El Porvenir.
With the Catholic faith being led by the Church's first 'Green Pope', this yearly tradition of blessing animals could help further rebrand the religion as being among the word's most environmentally-minded. Albeit sprinkling holy water on someone's pet turtle doesn't do much to, say, reduce deforestation in the Amazon, elevating the virtues of San Anton over those of Nick or Valentine may help cast pious eyes on the earth's greatest threats.