Blessing of the Animals, Chelsea Community Church

Update 2009-10-12: Added story about Smokey.

Blog Widow and Annie, the new kitten, at the Blessing of the Animals service at Chelsea Community Church earlier today.
Blog Widow and Annie

An off-topic, i.e. non-gardening, post.

In some recognition of National Coming Out Day, some non-gardening factoids about me:
  • I'm an atheist.
  • My partner, known as Blog Widow, is an ordained minister, among many other talents.
  • People who've known me a long time think that's hysterical.
It takes some enticement to get me into church. Filling the pews with dogs and other companion animals kinda does it for me.

This is also an opportunity to introduce Annie.

Annie is a six-month old kitten we adopted two weeks ago from Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Kensington. We've been wanting to adopt a second cat, thinking that Ripley, the old soul, would do better with some companionship when we're out during the day. Ummm, yeah. That'll work. Eventually.

Today was Annie's "coming out," as we took her to the Blessing of the Animals service at Blog Widow's church, Chelsea Community Church. Mostly dogs were present; Annie was one of four cats, by my count, in attendance. She even made an appearance on stage when Blog Widow introduced her to the congregation for his general blessing over those assembled, human and otherwise.

Blog Widow and Annie


I shared this story here two-and-a-half years ago. This is an appropriate context to revisit it.

My atheism is life-long, forged in the fires of Catholic catechism during childhood, such as this exchange:
Me: When I go to Heaven, will my dog, Smokey, be there?
Nun: No.
Me: Why not?
Nun: Animals don't have souls.
Smokey was a magnificent animal, a German Shepherd we obtained as a puppy. I named him during the ride home. Sitting in the back seat, trying to hold onto him: a writhing mass of long, shaggy fur all the colors of smoke. He became my companion, my protector, my model of perfect love. Setting aside, for the moment, the overweening confidence that I would go to Heaven, as a child I recognized that any place that would not grant Smokey admittance was beneath my interest and unworthy of my attentions.

Certainly, there were other, more pernicious, influences that drove me from religious indoctrination. Conversion to active disbelief became a logical extension; without the possibility of evidence, there is no reason to believe. It's taken me a long time to accept that, nevertheless, I am a spiritual person. There's no life after death, but there is life; that's remarkable enough to celebrate it, and reason enough to grieve its inevitable end. Events such as the Blessing of the Animals remind me that, on this point at least, I share some common ground with others, regardless of the differences in our beliefs, or disbeliefs.



Related Content

Flickr photo set

Blog Against Theocracy: Childhood


Chelsea Community Church
Sean Casey Animal Rescue


Brenda from Flatbush said...

Annie is beautiful; love the pix with BW. I get the pets-in-heaven question all the time as a Catholic catechist, it's actually about the most pressing religious query kids have; stupid nun to have crushed it so. I'm orthodox enough to insist to my kids that humans have a unique cosmological status and dignity greater than animals, but as for pets in heaven, well, like Heaven itself, it is a mystery. Thank God the Catholic Church loves mysteries--it's the catechist's (and the believer's) best friend. I like to think of it as intellectual humility rather than a cheap dodge! (As for atheist-and-minister couple, that would make a cute sitcom in a Bizarro world where there was intelligent TV!)

Xris (Flatbush Gardener) said...

Brenda: Thanks, as always, for your nuanced comment! I knew I could count on you to weigh in, as we've had these conversations before.

There's a lot more to this "preacher's wife" thing than meets the eye. I'm glad to be on this side of it.

Rondell said...

They dip that cat in a flea bath baptismal font?!

Joy said...

Totally enjoyable slide show! All props to FG, BW, Sean Casey, Annie, Ripley, all the animals, and all the congregants.

Xris (Flatbush Gardener) said...

Rondell: I don't think so! There were treats on-hand, which could be considered an offer of communion.

Joy: Thanks!

Rondell said...

Ah okay. I been complaining to my church that they communion snacks ain't large enough. How am a big girl like me supposed to make it through an hour of church on a lil cracker and a lick of grape juice? The economies has affected all areas.

Becky said...

After the family cat, Sox, passed away last month, my kids have been asking this very question.. "Will I see Sox in heaven. Not knowing the answer to this question, I proceeded to do some search and study on my own. I stumbled across a great book that helped give my family and I peace. The book is titled, "Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!: Recognizing divine providence at work in Creation" by Susi Pittman. The book is very uplifting and well researched. It has a lot of compelling evidence that animals D go to heaven.

chuck b. said...

Rondell is funny!

Cute kitten--I love her!