Grotto tradition draws hundreds pets for annual blessings

It is a simple service that drew hundreds of folks to The Grotto: Music, responsive reading and a brief talk. But, it was punctuated with barks, purrs, and the occasional screech. Read why no one seemed to mind the interruptions …

Jami Morgan comes to The Grotto’s alter with her long-haired Chihuahua, Frankie, for a blessing from Father Jack Topper.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Who’d bring their dog to church? Jami Morgan ‚Äì and hundreds of others ‚Äì did just that on July 16. And, for good reason: The event was the annual “Blessing of the Animals”.

“I really love Frankie,” Morgan told us. “He blesses me every day. I thought, today, I’d get a blessing for him.”

During the service, The Grotto’s executive director, Father Jack Topper, OSM, told those at the outdoor gathering, “Animals do something special for us; they make us a little more compassionate toward our fellow humans. ‚Ķ Treat them with love; take care of them, so they will be happy and healthy. And, we know they will take care of us. “

Is that a weasel? “No, this is my buddy Max, a ferret,” explained Tracy Johnston.

Monastery’s pets
After the service, as the pets and owners were disbursing throughout the park, Father Topper confided to us that conducting the service has been difficult for him. “I struggle getting through the ceremony’s opening because we had two dogs. One passed away two years ago, and the other went to sleep last year. They would lead the procession in. In my opening remarks, I’d say the dogs, Shiloh and Utoo, welcome their friends here for the blessing of the animals.”

Topper confessed it’s “little complicated” to have pets in a monastery. “Actually, they belonged to our order. We still have a couple of cats.”

The father said caring for pets gives him, and others in his order, a direct connection to this ceremony. “But more importantly, it reminds us of what companion animals do for us; the lessons they teach us. They bring us unconditional love, comfort, and joy. They don’t judge us. They’re always happy to see us.  Sometime I think people thank God they ‚Äì and we ‚Äì have pets. It is a blessing from God that we have these pets to take care of; and, another blessing, how they take care of us.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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