Some of them quaked, some of them yelped and some of them tried to drink the holy water.

On Wednesday, Father Robert Barnhill of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Beatrice blessed about a half dozen pets that belonged to members of his congregation. In honor of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, Barnhill said a quick prayer before placing drops of holy water on the heads of several dogs and one rabbit.

Animals play a large part in the Bible as a symbolic reminder of God’s gifts, Barnhill said. For instance, animals were saved from the great flood, and there are references to the lamb of God and the ravens who brought bread to Elijah.

“The animals of God's creation inhabit sky, earth and sea,” Barnhill said. “They share the fortunes of human existence and are part of human life. God confers gifts on all living things.”

After the prayer, Barnhill blessed the animals from smallest to largest.

Lily, a Chihuahua-mix was second smallest after Radar, the rabbit.

“I'm the grandmother,” said Judy Kovar, who was holding the trembling Lily. “She's fine. She's just so excited.”

Kovar brought Lily for her daughter, Niki Hinkle, who got Lily from an animal shelter in Lincoln.

“She went to get a bulldog,” Kovar said, “but ended up with this.”

This is the first year that Father Barnhill has performed the animal blessing on St. Francis's feast day, Kovar said, though she said that the bishop in Lincoln does it as well.

Pat and Jim Creglow had never heard of the blessing before, but though it sounded like a good idea to bring Buddy, their terrier-mix, to be blessed.

The Creglows got Buddy as a stray more than a year ago, after their daughter spotted him on Facebook. They tried to find his original owner, Pat said, but they didn’t have much luck.

“Nobody would claim him,” she said. “So, we ended up with him and he's been a joy.”

“Oh, lucky us,” Jim joked.

After giving a quick blessing to each of the animals, from the skittish rabbit to a very excited black lab, Barnhill had to head off in a hurry.

“I'm teaching the confirmation class,” Barnhill said, “So I've got to run.”

The Holy Cross Lutheran Church at 19th and Garfield streets in Beatrice will be holding another community blessing of animals this upcoming Sunday at 2 p.m. in the front church yard.

Attendees are asked to bring leashed or crated animals, though if a pet is aggressive or nervous, a picture will do instead.


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