The Feast of St. Anthony the Abbott, the patron saint of the animal kingdom, is celebrated on the Sunday closest to January 17th. The ceremony celebrates and gives appreciation for the services provided to the human race by the animal kingdom.
St. Anthony lived in Egypt in the 3rd century A.D. In addition to being one of the inspirational leaders of monasticism, he has long been associated with the caring for and healing of animals.
His particular concern for their well-being stems from curing a pig of ergotism, a disease associated by eating bad grain. For this reason, St. Anthony is often depicted accompanied by a pig.
On the Feast of St. Anthony of Abad, both livestock and domestic animals are brought to St. Peter’s Square to be blessed, and to other churches in Rome’s historical center. In 19th century Rome, the Esquiline area still proliferated with sheep, cows, horses, chickens and other livestock that were led by herders to the churches to be blessed.
San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, St. Phillip Neri’s former parish, has long welcomed dogs since the saint permitted them to be present at Mass in order to encourage their owners to attend the liturgy. On the Feast of St. Anthony, the four-legged congregation was blessed along with their human family members.