Ask Susi Do pets go to heaven?

The Question

Q: My parish priest told me that “we (meaning the Catholic Church) do not believe that animals go to heaven, because they have no souls.” But, my heart and faith in Jesus tells me otherwise. Is what he said true?

A: This is perhaps the most epic question I am asked, in numerous and varying contexts. Countless books and articles have been given over to the question of animals in heaven and there is the long and short of it, depending on where you really want to go. So, I will answer the initial question, and follow it with an abridged explanation for the positive.

Pets in Heaven: The argument for

The Catholic Church does not definitively state that our pets or the animals do go to heaven AND of even greater importance the Church also does not state that they do not.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

  • Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the “six days” it is said: “And God saw that it was good.” By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth, and excellence, its own order and laws. Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment. * Catechism of the Catholic Church 2nd ed.. Washington DC: United States Catholic Conference,Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997.

Just the spiritual logic of that one paragraph suggests that all things created by God were wanted and loved by Him…there is purpose in His every creative act. And if creatures possess this particular goodness, it would stand to reason that God does not intend on losing anything “good.” For He is all good, all love. After all He is God, the Great I Am, and His Divine Providence orders all things to the end for which they were realized. We may be a “throw away” culture, but God is NOT a “throw away” God.

The Bible, the inspired word of God, is directed deliberately and succinctly towards the concerns and salvation of humankind. Humankind was given reasoning and free will and that is uniquely different than the rest of creation. Thus there was a need for guidance in our free will. This is not to say that all of creation was just a tossed off idea from God to make man’s life on the planet more interesting. This type of thinking is indeed far from the truth. Creation was hard-wired, or ordered if you will, to be what it is by God. Our pets and creation as far as they come in touch with humankind, manifest to us the divine excellence. We are bound to defer to this, to deliberately deny it is dishonoring our God given faculties as stewards of a great gift.

Our love and care of our pets, animals and the whole of creation about us cannot be contrary to the moral precepts set forth by God nor can it be contrary to the worship of God. There is a balance in appreciation and love we can have for the animals, our pets and creation that is rooted in grateful thanks to Our Creator for sharing Himself in the “good” reflected in creation that He created just for us. This should stir us to responsible and loving care of these gifts, not exploitation, inflicted suffering and disregard for the beautiful and boundless creatures and creation as though all were disposable chattel.

Creation manifests the perfection of God to humankind because God could not be summed up in one single creature. Thus, He is reflected through our pets, a flower, the sea, the sun the moon, the forest, the wild animals, all creation. This is accomplished ultimately through humankind’s mind but, it reaches our mind through our bodily senses. Since it is certain that each of us will retain our bodily senses in our immortal body there is a good reason for the material world’s continuing in existence in order to manifest God to those same senses and thus make our joy complete. *The Truth of Christianity Series: God and Creation, Thomas B. Chetwood, SJ, 1928, Benziger Brothers, Inc.

With this in mind, can you imagine the further delights God has for us with Him in Heaven? Would not that which was a reflection and a gift, a companion and a friend not be included?

One of my favorite saints, Saint John Bosco was directed and inspired by God in his dreams. There was one particular dream that stood out to me above all the rest. On December 6th he found himself standing in a place that was so vast, with water like diamonds, grand gardens, trees of indescribable beauty, beautiful music beyond comprehension, flowers that glistened with preternatural sparkles, all in an amazing and wonderful place. He was told that it was the glorified natural. A segment of the experience follows as he speaks with his heavenly guide, Dominic Savio, a young man who had passed away from this life earlier;

I am shaking because I don’t know where I am.

You are in the abode of happiness, Dominic answered.

Is this the reward of the just? asks Bosco.

Not at all! Here we do not enjoy supernatural happiness but only a natural one, though greatly magnified.

Everything here then is natural?

Yes, only enhanced by God’s power.

I thought this was paradise.

Oh no, no. No human eye can look upon the beauty of paradise.

And this music, is it the music which you enjoy in heaven?

No absolutely not.

Are these natural sounds?

Yes of course, but brought to perfection by God’s infinite power.

And this light which outshines the very sun’s brilliance, is it a supernatural light? Is it heavenly light?

It is only natural light, fortified and perfected by God’s omnipotence.

Might I be allowed to see a little supernatural light?

No one can see it until he has come to see God as He is. The faintest ray of that light would instantly strike one dead, because the human senses are not sturdy enough to endure it. * Dreams, Visions & Prophecies of Don Bosco 1988, Don Bosco Publications

Reading the entire documented encounter absolutely set my mind reeling with the thoughts of how wonderful the glorified natural must be and must include all that was natural and beautiful on earth in such a perfected state. I could see the glory of the animals that I loved in such a place, for how much more are creatures above the inanimate creation, and how much more man above the whole of creation!

Pets in Heaven? Sacred Scripture could give us a hint; For in him (Christ) the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself ALL (emphasis mine) things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.—Colossians 1:15-20 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite ALL (emphasis mine) things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.—Ephesians1:9-10 Behold, I make ALL (emphasis mine) things new!—Revelations 21:5.

Christ’s presence in this world sanctified it. In Christ and through Christ the world, like the body of man, will be purified and will put on the qualities of immortality. What these qualities will be it is useless to conjecture. But, there has been given us the promise of renewal.

  • For creation was made subject to vanity—not by its own will but by reason of him who made it subject—in hope, because creation itself also will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. For we know that all creation groans and travails in pain until now.—Romans 8:20-22.

Take heart in Christ who has claimed all that is and draws it unto Himself.

I believe and will always believe that I indeed will be reunited with not only my human loved ones, but, that extended family of creation that I loved and which shared the love of a good and gracious God who abandons none of the “good” of His love.

Recommended reading:

My book Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want To Know! makes an extensive case through research, scripture, Church traditions and teachings and even science for the positive conclusion, that God through Christ redeems the whole of creation.

Will I See My Dog In Heaven? Friar Jack Wintz, Paraclete Press

I Will See You In Heaven, Friar Jack Wintz, Paraclete Press

Behold, how my God has thought for all eternity of creating this fruit and this flower as a token of His love for me.

~St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi~

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