By Andy Sensenig OMI
A truly wonderful tradition of Alaskan Catholics that is the “Blessings of the Animals,” and the good people at St. Gregory the Nazianzen Parish really get into it.
We had two days of blessings, one on Saturday and one on Sunday both at 2 PM. How the people responded to these days really speaks loudly to the mettle of faith the people of Sitka have.
Saturday was a glorious day to be in Southeast Alaska. It was sunny, it was warm and it was dry, not your typical day for Sitka. As I was getting ready for the event, I thought to myself; “There could not a better day!” So I as I walked out to Bishop Kenny Center, I thought that there would be a lot of people with their animals and there was a good group, but not as many as I thought. It was a good spirited event, with a 19 year-old cat, despite its age, was not going to take any guff from the dogs even though it was safely secured in its cat-carrier. As we were bringing the ceremony to a close, a command “Hiss!” came from the carrier and all the dogs backed off respectfully.
That cat reminded me of Caleb from the Bible. He and Joshua were the only two men, who traveled with Moses out of Egypt and lived long enough to settle into the Promised Land. Caleb would have been considerably older after living 40 years in the desert, but he still had a lot of fight left. That cat would have made Caleb proud.
Sunday was a typical day in Sitka, cold, rainy, windy and I thought maybe that no one would come, but I was surprised once again. It was packed to the gills and the variety of animals was great. We had bearded dragons, ducks, chickens, cats, a hamster and of course dogs. And the weather magically cleared up just long enough for the blessing , but as we were beginning to finish our ceremony the clouds came back, the wind stirred back to its normal blustery self and the rain wanted us to know that God can out-do our efforts of spreading holy water at a drop of a hat.
All in all, it was a tale of two days, but a tale of one reality. The people of St. Gregory the Nazianzen Parish are a dynamic group of Faith. Because they can offer a full throated “Hiss!” to the adversities that surround them, just like our 19 year-old cat friend on Saturday and still come together to celebrate life’s joyful blessings which God gives them when it is rainy or not.
That takes a courageous heart. How do you stand up to the adversities and challenges that come your way? Do you hiss with the knowledge that God is always with you?
May we all be brave like the people of Sitka and like that 19 year old cat! Caleb would have been proud of them all.