Animal Chaplain February 2023

BBUUC’s Animal Chaplain, Elizabeth DeCoux, is available for members seeking spiritual help related to animals, such as blessings, celebrations of life, prayers, attendance at euthanasia, and other services. BBUUC’s Animal Grief Support Group meets first and third Sundays, 12:00  to 1:30 p.m., at the church. All are welcome, whether the loss is recent, long ago, or anticipated.  

Although Francis of Assisi is the saint most commonly associated with animals, there are others canonized in the Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox traditions who are noted for their love of beasts.  

The little known Melangell is the patron saint of animals in Wales.  In the early seventh century A.D., a Welsh prince went hunting for hares, using his hounds.  He believed he had succeeded when he and the dogs cornered a hare in a thicket.  But when he entered the thicket, he found a young woman engaged in prayer and contemplation; the hare was lying under the folds of her garments.  The hounds, in response to her presence, became calm, ceased baying, and left the thicket, refusing to respond to the prince’s efforts to have them seize the hare.  When the huntsman raised his horn to urge on the dogs, it stuck to his lips and would not sound.  

Impressed by Melangell’s piety, the prince gifted her with land, which she turned into an abbey and animal sanctuary.  She lived there the remainder of her years with the women of her order and the animals they protected.  The people of the parish continued to care for the animals within their borders after her death.  The Shrine Church of St. Melangell was built over the traditional site of her grave, and its reliquary contains bones believed by the faithful to be hers.  The church, located in a valley surrounded by the Berwyn Mountains, is one of the smallest, loveliest, and most remote shrine churches in the United Kingdom.  Pilgrims and other visitors are able to see the reliquary and a stone carving depicting the story of St. Melangell and the Hare.