RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This week is the Feast of San Anton. He's the patron saint of domestic animals. And in Spain, the festivities culminate in a Catholic Mass where people bring their pets to church - dogs, cats, even lizards in the church pews. NPR's Lauren Frayer managed to find herself a seat among that motley crew.
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LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: The streets of downtown Madrid are closed to traffic, and everyone is streaming down with their pets in their arms. There are dogs in sweaters, there's a cat here in a baby sling, and there's a man trailing two sheep on a leash - a ferret, a parakeet. They're all in line waiting to be blessed by the priests, anointed with holy water, at the Church of San Anton.
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FRAYER: Federico Espanolo was pushing a stroller filled with his babies.
FEDERICO ESPANOLO: I'm here with my son and my four dogs and my wife.
FRAYER: So this is a double stroller, and you have how many living beings in there (laughter)?
ESPANOLO: Four of them - four of them are in the stroller and then my son in this one.
FRAYER: Four dogs and one human.
ESPANOLO: Yeah (laughter).
FRAYER: And are they all being blessed today?
ESPANOLO: Yes, they're being blessed all together, yeah. And we have been blessed having all of them in our family.
FRAYER: This festival celebrates San Anton, or Saint Anthony the Abbott, a Christian monk born in the third century who befriended animals in the Egyptian desert. Here, it's a week of concerts, animal rights workshops and vegan restaurant deals, attracting both hipsters and little old ladies with lap dogs.
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FRAYER: Julian Munoz is carrying a bird cage with a green-and-yellow parakeet inside.
JULIAN MUNOZ: This is Horacio. Horacio is a bird. This Christmas, he was sick. We didn't know what to do. We started praying to San Anton. He had a photo of San Anton in the cage. Finally, he's better now. He has singing again.
FRAYER: So does Julian really believe that San Anton interceded and healed his pet parakeet, Horacio?
MUNOZ: Yes. Also the vet has done her work in this case, but, yes, I think that San Anton has made a little miracle with Horacio, and now he's happy again.
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FRAYER: For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer at the Church of San Anton in downtown Madrid.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.