Above: Madrid Pet Blessing during Festa di Sant’ Antonio (Getty Images)
The Festa di Sant’ Antonio (Feast of St. Antony) will be celebrated in Italy (251-356 C.E) this week. Saint Antony is also known as San Anton, San Antonio de Abad, St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Anthony the Abbot, or St. Anthony of Egypt.
Saint Anthony is the patron saint of the animal kingdom, among other things, and animal blessings and life respecting masses take place on the Sunday closest to his feast day of January 17th, the date of Saint Anthony’s physical death but celebrated as his birth date in heaven.
Most people associate the Blessing of the Animals with St Francis of Assisi. Although St Anthony de Abad is not as well known for his animal affinity, the Los Angeles Olvera Street blessing of the animals here in California was always held in conjunction with the feast day of St Anthony until it was changed due to challenges with the winter weather.
During my research for my book, Blessing of the Animals I found a story about St Anthony on a journey to visit St. Paul.
During his travels he met many animals, some helpful and some not. Eventually, he got lost and a wolf ended up guiding him to St. Paul—they were then feed by a cooperative raven.
Finally, when St Paul died, lions helped St Anthony dig the grave.
I always think anytime is a good time for an animal blessings but this week you will be able to find a bunch.
If you need to know how to maintain a peaceable kingdom you can find the Ten Commandments for Animal Ceremonies in Blessing of the Animals: A Guide to Prayers & Ceremonies Celebrating Pets & Other Creatures