The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, is celebrated on October 4th. The "Blessing of the Animals" is the highlight of the celebration, although it is probably more accurate to call it the "Blessing of the Pets", for farm animals are mostly absent (at least the ones most in need of divine intervention).
Commemorating St. Francis is the ideal time for Christians to reflect on their relationship with animals, a relationship that is the subject of a recent Washington Post article. The author, Laura Hobgood-Oster, writes:
"It is humbling, but Christians need to de-center themselves to be relevant in the twenty-first century. So how do we do this? We must take off the blinders that allow violence to happen to other animals and confront these issues directly with active compassion. I believe that there is no way a person who proclaims, "I am Christian," can be ok with the violence of factory farms. There is no way that a person who declares a "love for Jesus" can then turn their back on animal control facilities killing five million dogs each year because nobody will home them. Is not Christianity a religion of mercy and hospitality - of opening homes to strangers?"
In the end, Christians would be wise to ask a simple question:
What would Jesus do?