The Imitation of Mary, by Abbe Alexander de Rouville. No sooner had the incomparable Imitation of Christ appeared than the faithful began to spontaneously wish for an imitation of Our Lady, and finally, in 1768, a monk pulled together a little powerhouse of meditation on the different mysteries and circumstances of her life, from the Immaculate Conception to her Assumption into Heaven! Click here



 
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MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM: VIEWERS DEBATE POTENTIAL SPIRITUAL DIMENSION OF ANIMALS

It is nearly as if God is trying to tell us something. Are we coming to a period when the lion will rest with the lamb?

Or, at a time when fish are being depleted, when chimps are almost extinct, when elephants are also headed toward oblivion, is it that God is simply nudging us to respect His Creation?

There have been unusual stories recently. There is the account of a whale that kept circling and rubbing affectionately up against scuba divers who untangled it from a net. There is the African gray parrot: recent academic studies show that it can differentiate not only numbers but understand the concept of nothing -- zero. They report such a bird can say up to 800 words, configure sentences with meaning, and demonstrate the intelligence of a three-to-five-year-old child. There is the elephant that can sketch a self portrait [video here]. There is the lion that licks the face of a keeper.

There is -- get this -- the great white that returns to a yachtsman who rescued it.

What is moving here in the spirit? Just that much more information available due to the internet?

Perhaps, but we have wondered about the potential prophetic aspect of animals, such as bees, that are vanishing. We have also wondered whether creatures have souls.

When we raised this question a few weeks back -- the spiritual dimension of animals -- it generated quite a bit of mail. Most believed that the answer is that such a dimension or at least sensibility exists.

"One week, we had a visiting priest and a brother from the Marianhill Missionaries staying with us as part of their vacation," writes Patricia LaBoube. "Father would celebrate Mass at our dining room table, since there was no church immediately accessible. At each Mass, Ben, one of our border collies, would lie quietly under the table, until the elevation [of the Eucharist], at which he gave out one bark for the Host, and one for the chalice. The priest simply smiled, but afterwards, he commented that he was sure this little dog knew that the Lord was present."

"One time, I was blessing myself before going to sleep with Holy Water, of which I have a bottle by my bedside," says Melinda Crowe of Los Angeles. "The dog saw me do this and came out of his bed looking at me at the side of my bed. I went ahead and got more Holy Water out of the bottle and placed a cross on his forehead. Ever since that night, every night thereafter, even when sick, he would get out of his bed for me to place a cross of Holy Water on his forehead. I never trained this dog to do this. He did this on his own!" 

Many are the stories of animals that have saved humans. We know a Palatine priest who ministered at St. George's Church in Niagara Falls, New York, and whose large dog, as we recall, perhaps a mastiff, dragged him from bed when there was a gas leak (and the priest would not awaken).

"Let us not forget St. John of the Cross who was aided by a dog in escaping from his captors," noted a viewer. "Or St. John Bosco who was often accompanied by a dog who would arrive to accompany the saint safely through dangers."

Is it just "instinct"?

At the least: how animals imitate us!

Notes another viewer: "My friend, a saintly woman, came to pray, along with members of her payer group, to a man with terminal cancer. As she lay her hand on the manís head his cat put both paws on his neck. He closed his eyes and stayed in the same position for all the time the people prayed, close to half an hour. When they finished he went away."

Chimed in a reader named Christine Rossi:

"One Saturday morning our boxer entered our bedroom and put his two paws over my husbands chest and kept staring at the ceiling and moving his head as if he was watching something. My husband and I both looked up but saw nothing and found this really curious.

"My husband did not feel well that morning and came out to breakfast anyhow.

"While sitting at the table he passed out completely. When he came to I took him to the emergency room and found his heart had stopped. A day later they put in a pacemaker. Just what did our dog, Paco, see and why did he put his legs so tenderly over my husbands chest?"

The concept that animals have a spiritual side does not fit well with everyone. Argued a viewer named Fran Beach of Smyrna, Tennessee:

"I am disturbed that you are implying that our pets may be in Heaven. Animals do not have immortal souls and do not have the dignity of a human being made in the image of God. To say that our pets may be in Heaven with us does not make any sense in light of the redemption of mankind. I believe it was Saint Thomas Aquinas who explained that animals do have a soul in that they are a living creature, but it dies when its body dies.

"I do think, however, that is entirely possible that different animals will be with us after Jesus comes and makes 'a new heaven and new earth,' restoring what was lost after the fall. When that happens, the 'lion may lie down with the lamb,' and we may have dominion over the animals as was in the Garden of Eden.

 
"Since animals are created by God as well, it also seems possible that they could  have a 'sense" of their' Creator  if God so wills it. It also makes sense that certain saints like Saint Francis would have 'dominion over' the animals, and a relationship with them similar to what Adam and Eve had. I don't think you should encourage people to think that their pets are going to meet them in Heaven. I know people who are convinced of this and treat their pets like people. This is not what God wants."

We don't know the Mind of God, but we appreciate all viewpoints.

"In Catholic theology all material living beings have souls which is their life principle," says another. "However only man's soul is a spirit created by and in the image of God who is the uncreated Spirit. The two words, soul and spirit, are used interchangeably even though they do not mean the same thing, thereby causing confusion."

It will be interesting in Heaven to compare what we see with theories of theology.

Someone underscored a Scripture passage that mentions that "now the Egyptians [are] men, and not God, and their horses flesh, and not spirit," (Isaiah 31:3), but that seemed to be referring to the here-and-now (not some final essence). It's for you to decide! The Church is largely open.

We certainly should not equate bird (or dogs, or cats, or whatever) with humans.

"Iíd just like to add that animals do have souls, as do all living things," said Steve Moran of Maryland. "The soul is the life animating force within us. This is what Catholic theologians have always taught. The difference between manís soul and those of other living things is manís is immortal. Now, St. Thomas Aquinas said that Heaven would present those saved with a Ďperfectí happiness, and if I am fortunate enough to get to Heaven, I canít imagine my Ďperfectí happiness would be complete without my Boston Terrier Max, whose peaceful eyes do remind me of the peace Jesus offers each of us!"

"Approximately 15 years ago my cat became ill with feline leukemia," wrote Melinda Nyikos of Tulsa, Oklahoma. "He was 13 years old and very sick. The last night of his life I made him a little bed in the bathroom near the heater, so he could stay warm as he was extremely weak. I went to bed and had the most incredible experience: his wet nose woke me up and he was staring into my eyes. 

"I bolted up immediately because I couldn't believe he had jumped into my bed. 

"Well, he hadn't; I found him on his little bed. He had just died. It was a beautiful way to say good-bye to me because we had been through a lot together."

We know an elderly woman who had a dream of her cockatiel flying into her bedroom and awoke to find that the bird was in its cage dead.

Have some folks actually seen the spiritual side? This really takes your discernment!

"When I had to put my Golden Retriever-Chow mix to sleep, she was 12 and very ill, and I was devastated," recollects Carole E. Tierney of Illinois. "Afterward Chelsea's vet (who is from Pakistan and Muslim -- and one of the most wonderful people I have met) was talking to me and I looked back at the room where her body lay; there was an aura, a glow around her  body that I cannot describe. Four years later I can still picture her in my mind. The priest at our church does blessing of the animals once a year as some of the other Catholic churches in the area, I believe animals have souls and I believe they are sent to us for a reason."

Apparitions?

"When my youngest daughter was six years old, our old cocker spaniel named Bandit became very sick for a few months and then died," says Nicholette Gottlinger in Arizona. "Our whole family grieved his death and missed him very much. Questions of whether dogs go to Heaven came up, and I knew the Catholic teachings did not really say anything about it, only that dogs did not have souls like human beings. These thoughts weighed heavily on us.

"Well, God comforted us in a special way. A couple of days after Bandit died, my daughter suddenly 'saw' him while she was eating her lunch and yelled out, 'Look mommy, it's Bandit!" I hardly knew what to say, so I just answered her back 'Oh really?' My daughter said, 'Yes Mommy, don't you see him? He's sitting up begging. He's so happy!' And my daughter was laughing and talking to him. This lasted less than a minute. I was stunned. Bandit never once in his life sat up and begged, but now my daughter said she saw him and he was doing this. A few days after that, she suddenly saw him again, this time in the hallway as she was walking to her room. She started laughing and talking to him, she said he was running and 'Mommy, he's not sick any more!'"

Argues Linette Robertson: "I certainly don't know if animals go to Heaven or not. However, I do contemplate this: If God allows even the most evil of beings (namely Satan) to continue to exist (and will continue forever), will God annihilate something that He has created Himself, into nothingness? Would He throw a creation that was given to have its purpose on the earth, for His own reasons, which is to glorify Him while on the earth, into non-existence forever?"

Not a bad question.

There are those who even claim they were sent signs by the Blessed Mother that there pets had "gone on," or who claim to see pets in near-death episodes.

We report. You discern.

"My kids have asked the same question that has bothered me for  years," noted a final reader. "Will we see our pets or do animals go to Heaven when they die. One night I prayed hard about this and it was several years ago but the answer was clear. 'All that I have created, returns to Me.'"  

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