Man’s best friend a blessing

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Peter SweeneyMidwest Times
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Father Bernard Balaraj, left, holding Foxy and Bishop Michael Morrissey with Penelope, with budgerigars Jack and Beck in front.
Camera IconFather Bernard Balaraj, left, holding Foxy and Bishop Michael Morrissey with Penelope, with budgerigars Jack and Beck in front. Credit: Peter Sweeney/The Geraldton Guardian, Peter Sweeney

Celebrant Father Bernard Balaraj brought his budgerigars and a dog or two, and Bishop Michael Morrissey his cat, but Father Robert Cross was empty-handed.

Just as the Blessing of the Animals ceremony was about to start at St Francis Xavier Cathedral on Sunday, Father Cross was asked where his animal was.

“I’ve brought fleas,” he replied to fits of laughter.

A self-proclaimed despiser of screeching birds, he then added: “Where’s the corellas? Hopefully, not coming.”

Father Bernard Balaraj begins the Blessing of the Animals ceremony.
Camera IconFather Bernard Balaraj begins the Blessing of the Animals ceremony. Credit: Peter Sweeney/The Geraldton Guardian

It was mostly dogs, and a couple of cats, and the two budgerigars, named Jack and Beck, who were at the 15-minute ceremony, which included prayers for the good health of animals and a blessing with the sprinkling of holy water.

“I’m a teetotaller, but the budgies are named after Jack (Daniel’s) and Beck (Beck’s beer). I’m also looking after Foxy, a chihuahua,” Father Balaraj said.

Bishop Morrissey had to closely guard rising 18-year-old moggie Penelope, who attracted plenty of looks and growls from dogs.

Father Bernard Balaraj blesses animals.
Camera IconFather Bernard Balaraj blesses animals. Credit: Peter Sweeney/The Geraldton Guardian

This was the first Blessing of the Animals ceremony held by St Francis Xavier Cathedral.

It is a unique ceremony in the Roman Catholic Church, having been started by St Francis of Assisi in 1212.

St Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and ecology.

“He loved all creatures,” Fr Balaraj said.

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