Goldfish, lizards and rats are more than welcome, and they don't even have to be Catholics.
Snakes, however, are another issue altogether.
Coquitlam's St. Clare of Assisi church will hold a "blessing of the animals" event this Sunday, Oct. 6, starting at 2 p.m. "Pets have become part of the family. It's an opportunity for people to recognize their pets and have them blessed - whether it's for God's protection over them or thanking God for their pets," said Rev. Craig Scott. "It's about recognizing that animals are a part of our world, and a very important part of our world."
Scott said the annual afternoon of blessings has blossomed from 30 pets to more than 125 since the event's inception at the church in 1999.
The ceremony includes Scott singing and quoting Roman Catholic scripture before each pet is sprinkled with holy water. Depending on the number of animals, the entire exercise is done within an hour.
"We usually start off with a song, but after about the second note, the animals join in and take over," Scott joked. "There's barking, meowing, squawking and whatever other animal noises you can think of. It's just mayhem."
Scott said he's seen just about every pet over the 14 years he's performed the blessings: parakeets, rodents and even hermit crabs.
"It's kind of weird when I get to the fish. Sprinkling holy water on fish ... I don't know. But I do it," he said.
Despite that air of animal inclusiveness, snakes aren't allowed. It's not because of the religious symbolism associated with Adam and Eve, but rather Craig's own personal aversion to the reptiles. "I'm terrified of snakes. That is my personal paranoia. I tell people to take their snakes over to [Vancouver's] St. Patrick's Parish," he said, laughing.
The timing of Sunday's blessing is meant to coincide with the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which Canadian churches typically celebrate on Oct. 4. St. Francis of Assisi is the Catholic church's patron saint of animals and the environment.
"It's great. It's a real community builder because these people gather around and talk and socialize ... at least for as long as their pets allow them to," Scott said.
Sunday's blessing ceremony is open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation. Those attending are encouraged to bring pet food, blankets, towels or toys, which will be donated to a local animal shelter. Any cash donations will be welcomed as well.
"The animals don't have to be Catholics. This is absolutely open to anybody," Scott said.
St. Clare of Assisi church is located at 1320 Johnson St. in Coquitlam. For more information, call 604-941-4800.
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