Our Lady of the Holy Cross Catholic Church got a new priest last summer, the Rev. Don Buhr. With him came Elija, a Labrador and border collie mix, who attends every Mass that Buhr celebrates.

“A dog in church — I know it doesn’t sound right and doesn’t seem right,” Buhr said. “But this dog is a gift from God.”

When Buhr came to the church, he asked the parishioners if it would be all right if Elijah attended Mass. He said he didn’t want anyone’s prayers to be disturbed. So far, he said, no one has complained.

Buhr’s last assignment was at a country parish where Elijah was allowed to roam the fields and woods. The dog has made a smooth transition to the inner city. He is the terror of squirrels and other animals that trespass on the parish grounds. Inside the church, however, Elijah is as gentle as a lamb. During Mass, he tends to quietly meander. He may stroll onto the altar to sit beside Buhr or server Brittany Pfaffenback, 16. Elijah occasionally wanders down the aisle and sticks his nose into the pews, seeking affection. In the summer, he prefers lounging on the cool terrazzo tiles of the high altar. On a recent cold Sunday, he favored a spot beside a radiator to the side of the altar. When the crowd lined up to receive Communion, he took up his regular post in front of the first pew on the left. From there, he watched as Buhr distributed the Holy Eucharist.

“He loves that little space and plants himself there every Communion,” said a parish deacon, Gerry Quinn, 63, of Affton. “We do worry sometimes that someone will trip over him, but we’ve all adjusted fine.”

At the end of Mass, Elijah trotted ahead of the servers, deacons and priest as they filed down the main aisle.

At Our Lady of the Holy Cross, the congregation has embraced Elijah, said a longtime member, Charlotte Flowers.

“We have a true church dog,” said Flowers, 68. “He’s a joy and so well-behaved. The children especially love him. And he never barks in church.”

COMMENT: For making church nicer and chasing them pesky, grey squizzels, Elijah is our:


And well done, the people of Our Lady of the Holy Cross for realising that Elijah is a blessing and not an inconvenience. I would not be surprised if their congregation grows because of this gentle (except when it comes to critters) dog of God.

Thanks to Ro for sending this story in to MadPriest Towers.



  1. “A dog in church — I know it doesn’t sound right and doesn’t seem right,” Buhr said.

    A dog in church sounds not just right but perfect. I used to go to an Anglo-Catholic church down the road from me and there was a woman who would bring her King Charles spaniel. I can’t remember why but she was disabled and needed the dog with her in some way. Anyway, it was always a quiet lovefest in the pews between this dog and me. That’s how church ought to be, in my view. Bring on the animals! Let’s have parrots as well, why not? Cats, guinea pigs, elephants, bring ’em all on.

  2. If a grey squirrel happens to darken your church doors while you are giving the sermon, MP, I would hope and expect that you would immediately produce a revolver from about your person and shoot it at once.

  3. We have a parishioner with a guide dog — obviously a case of necessity, but it’s wonderful to have this lovely creature around the table with us at communion. After the dog and his companion had been to our church a couple of times, someone arranged to have a very comfy-looking dog bed placed next to their pew.

  4. We have two black Lab seeing eye dogs that come regularly to our church, They are very welcome here. My blind Uncle George was a preacher at a Presbyterian Church long ago and would take his dog Honey, a German Shepherd every where he went, even to the pulpit. Honey would sleep thru the sermon usually. One Sunday she woke up and the sermon wasn’t over. She then proceeded to yawn long and loud. Uncle George took that as a sign that he had gone on long enough and promptly brought his sermon to a close.

  5. Folks who object to dogs in church are going to have some difficulty when they get to the Pearly Gates and discover that St. Peter always has several of the Heavenly Dogs with him. In fact, if you don’t scratch the dogs’ ears and let them lick your hand, you probably won’t get in. (And if they bite you instead, you can take that as Judgment. The Heavenly Dogs are very discerning.)

  6. Jim – my thoughts on the subject exactly.

    Dah-veed – no I haven’t seen that one before! Do squirrels cause this sort of chaos in churches across the US, can I ask?

  7. Quite right, Bill. Although, as a trainer of dogs, I would suggest to people that they let St. Peter’s dogs sniff the back of their hands before they try to scritch them behind the ear.

  8. I’m assuming that’s the good father in the background. It appears he’s got something wrong with his foot. Either it’s a cast boot or the worst taste in foot wear I’ve ever seen.

    But one way or the other there’s something wrong with his foot.


  9. What happened to my comment about the dog tripping over the priest? (What with walking frame and orthopedic boot on display.)

    The Mad One has left one of his best friends in charge of comment moderation!

  10. Well, you see Boaz, I always pick on one person every day and reject one of his or her comments for no reason whatsoever. My shrink suggested that I do it to help me feel that I am still in control of my life.

    So, nothing personal.

  11. ‘Tis true. Yesterday one or more of my comments did not get through moderation. And me an old friend.

    So, nothing personal.

    Right. Simply stalinist.

    And if you ever meet MadPriest’s Glenna, don’t even think about a scratch behind the ear.

  12. “A dog in church — I know it doesn’t sound right and doesn’t seem right,” Buhr said.

    As opposed to them rotten Homo sapiens being there?! :-0

    Elijah, a Labrador and border collie mix: the smarts of a BC, AND the friendliness of a Lab? Does Our Lady of the Holy Cross not have an Archangel in their midst? 😉

    God bless Elijah (Awwww!). As I’ve said before: “Dog-liness is next Godliness”.

  13. Well, Brie and Bubba, my two little grey squirrels, were always well behaved in church, more so than some children. By the time they were big enough to stew or deep fry, Jim, they had been returned to the “wilds” of a “don’t have that loaded gun in here” subdivision.

  14. BooCat, for your sake and because you obviously like them, I’m going to stop making remarks about shooting squirrels.

  15. It’s more efficient and deadlier to use poison or a flamethrower.

    Well, I suppose a flamethrower eliminates the bother of having to cook it.

    (Sorry BooCat)