Annual event at St. Mark’s commemorates feast day of St. Francis of Assissi

By Pamela Dozois

St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos held its annual Blessing of the Animals service on Sunday, Oct. 3. This event is held near the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4), honoring his love of all creatures, great and small.

Chairs and benches were arranged on the lawn accommodating the more than 50 people who arrived with their animals for this brief outdoor service. Acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and singer Adam Phillips, founder/director of Santa Barbara Folk Orchestra, entertained the group in song. He performed on various instruments, such as guitar, a soothing wooden flute, and the Scottish smallpipes, which are a bellows-blown bagpipe with a softer and more mellow sound than the better-known Highland bagpipe. 

Rev. Randall Day, priest and rector of St. Mark’s opened the service by reminding everyone how important animals have been to us during the struggles of late. 

“These creatures are our companions and friends and have been especially important to us in these times of being distant from other people,” he said. “Our animals remind us we are alive and demonstrate unconditional love – and also draw us into the wonder of the world around us. Quite often they can teach us to slow down, reorder our priorities and live in the moment.”

Day then asked for volunteers to read aloud the first and second readings. One attendee read Isaiah 11: 6-9 followed by a group prayer of Psalm 104-1, 10-15, and a second reading from The Brothers Karamazov by another attendee. He then led everyone in prayers extoling God’s love of all living things.

Then Day individually blessed each of the animals who attended, dogs and cats and one white umbrella cockatoo, laying on hands and praying for each individual animal. He then invited the people to name aloud their animals at home and to pray together, saying “Fellow creatures, friends, and companions: May God your Creator and preserver bless, defend, heal, and keep you, this day and always. Amen.”

A final blessing was delivered stating, “May God the Creator of all that is, God the Redeemer of all Creation, and God the life-giving Spirit, bless you now and forever. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

Following the closing, Day paid tribute to a long-time Solvang resident, Hazel Mortensen, who died last Sept. 26, 2020 at the age of 85. A staunch animal-rights activist, Mortensen’s mission in life was to advocate for abused and neglected animals. During her last months she launched a community fundraiser in partnership with Santa Ynez Feed and Milling and Quinn Spaulding to help purchase bags of dog and cat food for local residents in need of assistance with their pets during last year’s COVID-19 crisis. In total, she stayed faithful to the cause for nearly 50 years.

“So many people have just disappeared from our lives this past year so I wanted to include Hazel in this year’s bulletin to let those who didn’t know already of her passing,” Day said.

He also thanked a previous wedding party for their donation of water left over from their wedding, which was used at this event. 

For more information, contact Rev. Day, Valerie Cantella, or visit

A Prayer by St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen