Book of the Month

~by Michele Gregoire

March 2015 Review: I Will See You in Heaven: Cat Lover’s Edition! By Friar Jack Wintz

A few years ago I wrote a review of Fr. Jack Wintz’s 2009 published book, Will I See My Dog in Heaven, and the following year I received a gift of his 2011 work, I Will See You in Heaven: Cat Lover’s Edition! This later book contains abbreviated accounts from the first book that covers the same basic content but also adds detail and examples about cats. The Cat Lover’s Edition is actually a shorter work of just 102 pages in a 6×7 inch book so it is easy to read through rather quickly. However, it is still a comprehensive treatment of the topic and, as in his previous book, includes scriptural and catechetical support for the belief that our pets will be in heaven with us.

The dedication – “This book is written for the millions of people who love their animal companions. All may find inspiration here” – precedes a presentation page that allows one to give the book in memory of a former pet or pets. The Table of Contents follows and shows an Introduction, Three Prayers of Blessing, and fourteen chapters. Much is contained in this rather small book! The Introduction is similar to a chapter in that it includes a story about a friend and his adopted Maine Coon cat, so the book begins with an example of love between a family and its cat. The second part of this opening section provides Fr. Wintz’s background and the Franciscan theological perspective that “all creatures form one family of creation.” Following this section are three prayers of blessing that can be used for any animal in praise and thanksgiving, for illness, and for one who has died or is about to die. These prayers are preceded by a Scripture reflection (Col. 1:17): “Christ is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” As the reader journeys through this book many clues from Scripture are provided that indicate God wants animals and other creatures to share his joy eternally.

Chapter 1, “And It Was Very Good,” begins with Genesis and creation, and reminds us that God does everything out of love and goodness. Fr. Wintz tells us that “goodness is reflected in the whole family of creation. When God says of any creature, whether human or nonhuman, that it is ‘good’ or ‘very good,’ it is not simply a matter of moral goodness.” This is an innate characteristic that reflects the beauty of God. The second chapter treats of happiness and the Garden of Eden and the third chapter covers blessing the animals. The author states that we do know from Genesis that animals, plants, and other creatures found happiness in the first Paradise and he then poses the question, why would God want to exclude them from the paradise to come? Subsequent chapters cover Noah and Jonah as well as the will of God regarding creation, ascertained through Scripture. Fr. Wintz stresses that the covenant God makes after the flood is not only with Noah and his family but with all living creatures – everyone on the ark. He tells us that this suggests that “other creatures communicate with God, in their own ways, in ways that may be similar and equivalent to our own communications.” The author also submits that we have much to learn about “God’s inclusive love, and about our role in collaborating respectfully with other creatures as we go on our way to fulfill our Creator’s holy designs.” In Chapter Seven, Psalm 148, Hymn of All Creation to the Almighty Creator, is an example of all creatures – the combined family of creation – praising God together.

The following two chapters are about St. Francis and his ‘Canticle of the Creatures,’ which is based on Psalm 148, and the stories about his respectful and loving encounters with creation. From saving earthworms, rabbits, fish, and a wolf to his preaching to the birds, the well-known examples from St. Francis’s life are presented. His addressing the birds as creatures with reason provides example that animals do indeed seem to have their own ways of communicating with God that are similar to ours, and also suggested to St. Francis that he had been negligent in not preaching to the birds before. Fr. Wintz then writes about Jesus, how he entered the world of creation and was so perfectly at home in it, and that his incarnation dramatically impacted the entire network of creation. He also quotes Mark 16:15, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature,” noting that Jesus’s choice of words tells us the gospel message is meant for the whole family of creation. This particular verse and the many other parts of Scripture where ‘all creatures’ or ‘all creation’ are used certainly indicate that ‘we are all in the same boat’ as Fr. Wintz stated in the earlier chapters of the book.

The final chapters of the book share more stories about cats and some rather intriguing experiences owners have had with them. Fr. Wintz writes that we can care for them as brothers and sisters and they are quiet and reverent companions who might also remind us to pray. He further says that these fellow creatures “praise” God in their unique ways, and living with them can only be a blessing. “In their own mysterious ways, cats can be little mirrors of the goodness and love of God – the same God we celebrate in the Eucharist.” He praises the great intelligence and instincts of cats, “their mighty hearts, wonderful sense of play, and great capacities to give and receive affection.” Fr. Wintz recaps the topics addressed through the book in the final chapters, and in the Conclusion he reminds us that Jesus said we are to have faith like children. To illustrate that point he asked a question to eight first grade students, “Why should animals go to heaven?” The answers are pure and simple, for example: ‘Because they are good; Because God loves his creations; Because he [God] loves them and wants them to live with him; If only people were in heaven, it would be boring.’

In concluding the book, Fr. Wintz states that we do know that “our faith, supported by Scripture, Christian teaching, and the life and example of St. Francis of Assisi, gives us solid hints and clues that if we live in harmony with God’s plans, we will see the ‘whole of creation’ in the world to come.” Further, he tells us that in heaven the holiness of all God’s creatures will be apparent. This book is very much similar to the previous work, Will I See My Dog in Heaven, and yet is at the same time a new and slightly different treatment of the same subject. I like its brevity and the inclusion of just enough salient text. Scripture passages that address creation are referenced, along with St. Francis stories, and relevant Catholic practices. And, of special significance to ailurophiles is the emphasis on cats and their human families that this book was written to address. Like its predecessor, I Will See You in Heaven: Cat Lover’s Edition is a delightful book that can serve as a companion to prayer and a primer on Franciscan theology. It can be re-read innumerable times for simple spiritual satisfaction.

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Dr. Michele Gregoire has been Chair of the Education Department at Flagler College since 2004 and a member of the faculty since 1988. She came to Flagler College from Georgia College in Milledgeville where she had been Director of Music Therapy for four years and prior to that she spent one year in the same capacity at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Dr. Gregoire earned her bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy at Florida State University, her master’s degree in Music at California State University at Long Beach, and her doctoral degree in Special Education at the University of Florida. She has conducted research and published articles related to music therapy and special music education, consistently maintains a strong record of professional conference presentations, and her current interests are historical research in music education, special education, and music therapy.

Dr. Gregoire has been involved in several professional organizations throughout her career, and has served in leadership capacities in most of them. She worked for ten years as a clinical music therapist and director of internship, specializing in developmental disabilities, at the beginning of her career and continues to provide consultation in both music therapy and special education to individuals and organizations.

Visit Michele’s BOOK OF THE MONTH ARCHIVE

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