Tradition marches on as Jacksonville church celebrates ‘Blessing of the Animals’

The St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is keeping up with a more than 800-year-old tradition.

On Sunday, the church on Atlantic Boulevard celebrated the Feast of Saint Francis with the annual “Blessing of the Animals.”

The centuries-old tradition dates back to the 12th century and highlights St. Francis of Assisi. He is a revered religious figure who is remembered for his love for animals and nature.

St. Francis is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint for animals and the environment.

Katie was among the more than 10 pets in attendance for the blessing.

First-time pet owner, Susan Abraham has had Katie for a year now.

“I love her so much. She is like another little child in my family,” Abraham said.

This is a service Father Raja Zabaneh looks forward to each year. So much so, that it’s the only time he wears a special stole.

“We feel the love of God through the creatures that He gave to us,” Zabaneh said. “They give you unconditional love. They give you care.”

The church also collected all of the supplies including pet food and toys that will go to the Jacksonville Humane Society and Jacksonville’s Animal Care and Protective Services.

Every single pet that came to the church received certificates as well.

“She has been a blessing in my life honestly. She is a good companion and she keeps me company. She is so good. She is so well-behaved,” Abraham said.

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