How 1000 super cute animals unite in blessing | Sacred Wonders – BBC


The Cathedral of St John
the Divine. St John’s is the largest
Anglican cathedral in the world. In the 19th century, it was built
to accommodate a congregation of 3,000 people,
but times have changed. That flood of worshippers has turned into little more
than a trickle. Patti Welch is a priest
at St John’s. Patti is responsible for
an event that on at least one day of the year sees the cathedral
packed to the rafters. Sheep, goats, we have… The skunk
is coming.
Oh, I’m so glad. Very exciting. think we’ll be very careful
where we…
Put him...put him. Together with cathedral manager
Lisa Schubert, Patti is organising a remarkable event that will be
taking place in just 24 hours. So we’ll put Oscar in front,
he’s always very sweet, as long as
they give him lots of medicine.
He looks good in his garland.
Tomorrow, a menagerie of over
1,000 animals, along with their owners and handlers, will be
arriving at the cathedral to celebrate
the Feast of St Francis, the patron saint of animals. People always love Teddy, although
he’s got terrible breath.
Sheep is Donkey’s friend. Oh, so they like to walk together. Yes, and Sheep calms Donkey down.
OK, great. Many churches will be holding
animal blessings, but St John’s ceremony has become
one of the largest in the world, and Patti’s been managing it
for over a decade. Now, here’s the thing
about the goat.
The goat butts.Oh, right.
He butts the little children. The highlight of the event is the grand procession of
exotic animals down the aisle, to be blessed at the altar
by the Bishop of New York. Those thousands include people
that may never have walked through
the doors of the cathedral, wouldn’t
feel drawn here, except that
they’re invited to bring
their beloved pet with them.
It’s now one of the biggest
Christian events of the year for Patti, rivalling
Christmas and Easter. 9am on the Feast of St Francis. The service is due
to start in two hours and already, large crowds
are building. Oh, Lady Gaga! So beautiful!
Thank you, thank you! How old is Max?
Nine months.Oh, a puppy! Hi! Oh, he’s gorgeous!
Who in the world is this?
Mabelle.Hi, Mabelle! It’s looking to be
a bumper attendance. Over 2,000 people
have arrived so far. The more overexcited pets
packed in the pews, the greater the potential
for pandemonium. Outside, the procession animals
and their handlers are arriving. Every year, a local animal sanctuary
loans them to Patti for the day to help the cathedral
with fundraising. Anyone who wants to lead one of
these exotic animals up the aisle, or bring a pet, can make a donation. The money raised funds work in
the community and helps with the upkeep of the cathedral. But many of the animals
require careful handling. Oh! Boa, boa, boa!Yeah! All right, behind sheep
and then, boa, stay there.
It’s wonderful to see the cathedral
full for our St Francis Day
celebration and it is
mixture of domestic animals…
At 11am, the Bishop of New York
begins the service. Patti has just 45 minutes left
to get all the animals lined up and ready to move out on cue. The mama duck with
the baby ducks? Yes!
Patti’s ark is taking shape. Oscar’s going to go first up
the ramp and down the aisle,
followed by Camel. But all the animals need to be
lined up in a very particular order for the procession. We don’t want the birds of prey
behind the baby ducklings. No.
If predator species are placed
next to potential prey, they could attack. And large animals might kick
smaller animals behind them. All right, Diane, let’s head down. The service is now well under way. With only 30 minutes left to go, one
of Patti’s animal handlers faints. The lady just passed out.OK. So, we’re calling 911,
we’re letting security know.
But the show must go on.
All right, everybody, line up. If you’ve got animals, come with me. If I may ask the congregation
to be seated.
Finally, it’s time to go. Open the doors, open the doors. As the procession of animals
is beginning now…
lose sleep over whether or not
the animals will actually make it
all the way down the main aisle
of the cathedral.
When the animals enter the narrow
aisle, they could feel trapped. This is the moment when they are
most likely to panic. But the animals remain calm. There’s this quiet that engulfs
this amazing cathedral,
this huge space,
and that’s what I love.
That moment where I know
everything’s in place
and it’s all going to be OK. The Bishop blesses
the last of the animals, the procession’s poop scooper
deals with one final accident, and Patti can breathe again. The event has been a triumph. It’s all worked out again,
which is miraculous.
To see this magnificent cathedral
filled as it ought to be filled
every Sunday, this is what
it’s about, that we come
together in these moments
and they’re sacred.

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