Blessing of the animals held at basilica

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LEWISTON — One person came into the church with two cats in a crate, another with a guinea pig. But most came in with their dogs on leashes.

They filed into the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Saturday to have their pets blessed.

“It’s the Saint Francis of Assisi Feast Day,” Brother Irenee Richard said.

St. Francis, from whom the current pope took his name, was a 13th-century Italian Catholic friar and preacher known for his love of all of God’s creatures. The blessing of the animals recalls Francis’ love and thanks God for letting humans share the Earth, according to a statement from the Catholic diocese in Maine.

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The blessing recognizes the important place pets hold in people’s hearts.

Debbie Littleton of Auburn brought Luke, her black Lab mix.

“He’s a rescue,” Littleton said. “I’ve had him one year. He has the energy of a puppy and the manners of a man.”

Luke seemed friendly, eager to meet people and fetch. He wanted the tennis ball in Littleton’s pocket. Getting Luke blessed was important, Littleton said.

Recently her dog was sick. She prayed to St. Francis to help him get well. “All of a sudden, Luke ate a bunch of grass, threw up and out came corn cobs,” Littleton said. “St. Francis takes care of our animals. He was the one who taught us to respect nature and animals.”

Soon, the service began.

“In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit,” Richard said. “The animals are God’s creation,” he preached as one of the dogs barked. “Animals share in Christ’s redemption of all God’s creations. We therefore invoke the divine blessing on these animals.”

The group sang “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,” a song that stirs up teachings of St. Francis. At the end of the service, Richards sprinkled the animals with holy water.

Donna Simoneau, a member of the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis in Lewiston, brought her Sheltie, Josie, and two kittens, Moses and Mira.

“Blessings bring a richer life,” she said.

The celebration was scheduled to be held on the front lawn of the basilica. It was moved indoors because of rain.

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