Hurricane Joaquin may have spared New York City from flooding, but there was still a Noah’s Ark worth of animals gather on the Upper West Side this past Sunday.
The beasts were at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine to celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis and Blessing of the Animals. They ranged in size from a camel named Azuri to several Madagascar cockroaches, all there to receive benediction from church officials. Most of the more exotic animals were supplied by the Dawn Animal Agency and Sanctuary, which provided 40 animals for the procession, but many churchgoers also brought their household pets. During the festival all animals are welcomed into the church for service.
After the service, clergy members stayed on the grounds outside to individually bless New York’s four-legged residents. “In New York, people tend to live by themselves,” Rev. Victoria Sirota told The Huffington Post, between blessing a Chihuahua in an Angry Birds hat and two frogs brought by a small boy. “So the pet often really represents the love of God in the household, a welcoming, beautiful presence.” Unfortunately for Sirota, serious allergies prevent her from having her own pets. “I’ve taken all the antihistamines and decongestants I can and I have to keep wiping my hands off with Purell,” she says with a laugh, “but it works just fine.”
To see more scenes of the service without having to worry about any allergic reactions, check out the video of the festivities.