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Weekly Bulletin January 17, 2021
by Terrie Evans
On January 17th, we acknowledge World Religion Day; to learn about the common elements of different faiths. Established by the Baha’i Faith in 1949 who believe that all humans are born equal and have the same rights and duties irrespective. The Baha’i Faith emerged from Persia in the 19th century and follows three core principles; the unity of God, religion and humankind. World Religion Day was 1st celebrated in the United States in 1950 and is now observed in 80 countries as a way to enlighten us about all the major religions. Over 70% of the world’s population practice Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, or Sikhism.
This is also the feast day of St. Anthony the Abbot (not the 3rd century Franciscan, St. Anthony of Padua) known as the “Father of Monks” who is known for his devotion to animals. He was known as a hermit who spent periods of time praying and fasting in the dessert with his only companions, the animals. In 1110, men founded the Order of Hospitallers of St. Antony to combat ergotism (St. Anthony’s Fire). Those monks were remarkably successful in treating this ailment of gangrenous poisoning. They wore black robes with a blue Tau Egyptian Cross (a symbol of life and history against epidemics) as they rode into villages ringing little bells to attract alms. Afterwards, they hung the bells around those animals to protect them from disease. He is considered a protector of cattle and in the past, his image was placed above the stable doors.
The symbols for the Saint are : A man with a pig by his side, a Bell, T shaped staff and a Tau Cross with a bell on the end. Throughout Italy, St. Anthony the Abbot is celebrated with blessings of farm animals, bonfires (Falo di S. Antonio) and feasts. The blessings were thought to keep harmful forces away from their homes, land, horses, chickens, bees, salt and feed for the animals. A tradition that is still in practice; is to donate pieces of butchered pork to be auctioned for charity on his feast day. Those who donated the hams, chops and sausages were expected to bid high on the butchered pork to raise more funds. In the past, they money would go to the priest or a nearby food bank.
A prayer for the blessing of all animals: Lord God, You are King of heaven and earth. You are the Word of the Father, and through You, He has given us all created things for our support. We beg you now to consider our lowly position. Just as You have given us help in our labors and needs, so in Your most kind mercy, bless these animals with a heavenly blessing and guard and preserve them. Be so kind too, as to give us, Your servants, along with benefits that do not last, Your unfailing grace, so that we may gratefully praise and glorify Your Holy name, who live and who are King and God with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.