September 1, 2023 - 2:19pm

The Procession of Animals Returns to the Cathedral's Feast of St. Francis Celebrations

The Procession of Animals Returns to the Cathedral's Feast of St. Francis Celebrations

For the first time since 2018, the Cathedral's Saint Francis Day liturgy will include the procession of animals. The fire of 2019 followed by the pandemic made it impossible for us to celebrate in the way that made the liturgy internationally famous. Last year, we were able to gather in the Cathedral, but we were not able to include the procession. The animal rescue agency that brought the "exotic" animals to us did not survive the pandemic. On the bright side, the year without the procession gave us an opportunity to consider the ethics of bringing those great animals into the Cathedral and surrounding them with literally thousands of people and domestic pets. Were we causing them undo stress for our own pleasure?

We have concluded that it is indeed possible to bring animals into the Cathedral in a way that does not harm them. We have also concluded that, while the animals do bring us great pleasure, the real purpose of the procession is not that. It is to recognize and give glory to God, the source of all life, for the wonders of animals great and small and in the spirit of Saint Francis, to let our hearts be moved by their grandeur.

We have found an agency that secures animals mostly for theatrical purposes such as Broadway and films. The people who care for the animals do it as much as an act of love as a means of income. The animals are consistently well cared for, and they are trained to live and thrive in the presence of large groups of people. They are, in a sense professional actors.

In addition, we have invited people to bring animals that work for the good of society, for example, NYPD mounted police horses. The celebration will be an occasion to thank and honor these four-legged public servants.

In the past, the animals came to us at a minimal cost. This year and probably every year to come, their presence will be quite expensive. Because they are professional actors, they deserve a wage that allows them to be well housed and cared for. Public funds do not sustain their life. We ask you, then, to be generous so that the Cathedral's Saint Francis Day celebration can unfold with the grandeur and wonder that makes it one of the most loved feasts of the year.


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