Animals in Heaven?
I think you will be surprised to learn that in one of the four Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal, we Catholics are clearly informed that in God’s heavenly kingdom, we human beings “shall sing God’s glory with every creature through Christ our Lord.” As unexpected as it may seem to many of us, we find these words announced clear as a bell in Eucharistic Prayer IV.
Many readers of Friar Jack’s E-spirations know that in at least two of my recent columns, I have dwelt on themes of my recent book Will I See My Dog in Heaven? Check out, for example, my April 28, 2009 E-spiration, “Do Our Pets Go to Heaven?” You will see that Eucharistic Prayer IV supports the belief put forward in my book that all creatures will praise God together in heaven. All one has to do is simply listen to the words of our official Roman Catholic liturgy, and we cannot help seeing that it teaches us that all creatures will someday be praising God with us in heaven.
I ask you to please pay close attention to the whole passage of Eucharistic Prayer IV, where we hear this statement: “Father, in your mercy grant also to us your children, to enter into our heavenly inheritance….Then in your kingdom, freed from the corruption of sin and death, we shall sing your glory with every creature through Christ our Lord….”
‘Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature’
In Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples, after his death and resurrection, we hear him speaking in similar terms. Jesus indeed leaves us a strong hint that the whole family of creation—indeed a whole host of creatures, whether human or non-human—would be included in God’s saving love. And why should they not be praising God with us in heaven?
Jesus tells his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Mark does not say “to every human being” but “to every creature.” Jesus’ choice of words indicates that he wants the gospel message to have a saving impact upon the whole family of creation, and not simply upon the human family.
The three examples used in this E-spiration—Jesus’ farewell address just mention, John’s vision of heaven in Revelation and Eucharistic Prayer (IV)—provide us with only three brief indicators that animals will be with us heaven. We know very little in detail of what God has in mind for us in the next life. But in the ten chapters of my book, I provide much evidence from the Scripture, from the Judeo-Christian tradition and from the life and teaching of St. Francis of Assisi that God desires all creatures and not just humans to be present with God in heavenly glory.
My hope is that all the evidence in Will I See My Dog in Heaven? will help open more and more minds to the idea that the good news of salvation is much broader and greater than we ever thought. I hope increasing numbers of people will come to believe that the good news of salvation will include not only humans, but as Eucharistic Prayer IV itself teaches, we humans will one day be praising God in heaven “with every creature!”
Testimony From Revelation
If the words of our official Catholic Liturgy are not enough to win you over, just direct your attention to the pages of Scripture itself. Indeed, long before the Roman Missal was published, a very similar scenario of all creatures praising God in heaven alongside human being and angels, was also presented in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. There, the inspired writer, John, described for us a vision, in which all creatures are standing before the throne of God. And this glorious gathering is by no means made up simply of saved humanity.
No, all creatures are there. In his vision, John sees God sitting on a glorious throne in heaven. Standing next to him is Jesus, in the form of a lamb. An immense crowd of angels and human beings, as well as all other creatures, are also there. Here is John’s testimony, word for word:
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: ‘To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever’” (Revelation 5:13).
God is often referred to in the Scriptures as the “Lord of hosts.” The word host means a “very large number” or a “multitude.” In the scene from Revelation, we are surely seeing the Lord of hosts, because he is surrounded by an immense host of creatures, indeed all creatures of the universe! This huge gathering is made up, not only of angels and humans, but also of all other creatures.
Because St. Anthony Messenger Press is a distributor of Friar Jack’s book for Paraclete Press, we are happy to tell you about our special offer regarding Will I See My Dog in Heaven? By purchasing the 144-page book from St. Anthony Messenger Press, you will receive a copy of the book personally autographed by Friar Jack Wintz, O.F.M., for only $11.99, a discount from the list price of $14.95. Order the book here.
See Friar Jack’s interview about Will I See My Dog in Heaven? on YouTube
Dear Friar Jack: I am confused about the line in the Apostles’ Creed, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
All who have died, are they in heaven or are they “somewhere” waiting for Jesus to come back and judge them so they can have eternal life ? At a funeral we often hear that the person is with God now and that is where the confusion sets in for me. Thank you, Nancy
A: Hello Nancy: Your question is a good one and one that many people wonder about. We have some idea of what will happen, but keep in mind that once we die, we enter “eternity,” that is, world without end. Time is different than we experience here on earth. But, of course, we as humans can’t comprehend eternity. But this is what we believe as best we can explain it.
First, when we die as individuals have always died, each of us is judged at that moment; our journey on earth is completed, our decisions made and so it is that immediately after death we know our eternal life—with God or without God.
Now, keep in mind that most of us are sinners and not perfect, and so we have our understanding of purgatory. The best way to understand purgatory is that we are saved, we know we are saved and we are united with God (as we were here on earth by sanctifying grace). But our union with God is just not yet perfect; that will come. So, in a sense we have a partial heaven until our union is complete. Others, and hopefully the number is small, are in “hell” which by definition is complete and total separation from God….not because God stopped loving THEM but because THEY stopped loving God. They have put themselves in hell.
All of that is concerned with the particular judgment that each of us will face.
Second, the final judgment is really concerned with finally understanding all of God’s works and love for us and every person in the world. We will find out why it seemed the evil people got away with so much and the good people so often suffered. We will see God’s plan once and for all for each of us and how it was a perfect plan for each of us even though for so long we lived in mystery and often by faith alone. All will come clear the goodness and justice and mercy of God will be seen by every person who ever lived. It will be a marvelous day for sure. Hope this helps in your understanding. Fr. Jim