By Mariana Burgos
Every November, we remember our saints and our dearly departed. Before the pandemic, we would usually plan on when we will be going to the cemeteries to clean the tombs of our dead loved ones. After the cleaning up, we would have a little picnic-like activity right there with the dead and reminisce the good old days with them.
Since the pandemic started, all those who had this kind of a plan last year had to scrap it all because no one was allowed to go out. The only burial spots each family could visit then were the graves of their pets right there in their own backyards.
That was kind of a good thing that happened ( at least, for animal lovers like us) because most people hardly remember to visit their dead pets’ graves anymore. Some do not even think it is worth a second of their time because they say, they are just animals, they do not have souls. But don’t they really?
For our family, November also means that we would be watching scary movies or videos because it is the month of ghosts anyway. Just a few days ago, my daughter and I saw these spooky videos of ghosts of dead animals/pets caught on camera and videos about famous animal ghosts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU-qOX2OCg0; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBTiF9Yfuks; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWNcS5dMuSA; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSrQKqqjzUU; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLJwYCEcCO0; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzvy3yNRotY). Having seen these videos, it is kind of hard to believe that animals do not have souls. I, for one, would really like to believe that when I go on to the next life, I would see not just my departed “human” loved ones but my beloved pets, too. Wouldn’t it be great if that is true?
Of course, when we talk about souls and spirits, which better institution can one inquire with than the religious, right? Catholic, Protestant, whichever religion you have. I am a Catholic and as one, I know of one saint we have who, actually for us, is the patron saint of all animals—-St. Francis of Assisi. He was a Catholic monk whom they say had a gift of being able to talk to and understand all animals. Long before Dr. Dolittle, there was St. Francis and he was no fictional character, mind you! For as long as I can remember, I have always prayed to St. Francis every time a pet of ours got sick or had a really bad accident and would need intensive medical care. Even when I would just be gone for a few days, I automatically would pray to St. Francis to take care and protect my pets from all kinds of harm while I was away. It has become a habit of mine, I guess. And it is because of this that I thought, all the while, that our church believes animals do have souls like ours. Little did I know that the topic is continuously being discussed by the church leaders up to this time. So, I googled on with what the Catholic church says about this matter now.
Recent popes have said different things about the possibility of animals having souls and returning back to God in the afterlife. In 2014, there was sort of a big commotion about what Pope Francis mentioned about the topic. Or so they thought he mentioned one. They thought he affirmed that animals who have passed away do go back to paradise. There was a huge stirring with many news media outside Italy and in the social media because of this. It turned out, however, that he never made such comments on the topic and, according to Frances Kerry and Philip Pullella’s article with Rueters published on December 14, 2014, “the news stories were based on a misreading of remarks Pope Francis made at his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 26 and on a comment that a past pope did make several decades ago. “ Some say they think that maybe the reason why this happened is because people tend to think synonimously that just because Pope Francis took the name of St. Francis, he would automatically agree that all pets go to heaven. For animal lovers, the thought is cute and endearing even. But I think we should be wiser than that.
When reporters finally asked the Vatican clearly of what the Pope thinks of the issue, Father Benettini said that from the general tone of his speeches and gestures “it is clear that he is in spiritual harmony with all of creation.”
I was able to read other articles on the matter and I was able to find some pretty interesting write-ups. One particular article I like is Marianne Widmalm’s, Do Animals Have Souls? What the Bible Says (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/do-animals-have-souls-what-the-bible-says/). I must say she really did some extensive reading with the Bible in this one because it helped me understand better what it means to be “in spiritual harmony with all of (God’s) creation.”
In the end, what is important is to acknowledge a spiritual connection with all beings knowing they too can feel and were created by our Higher Being. And as we live our lives, let us try to live in spiritual harmony with all of God’s creation. Being kind to animals is one way to do so.