Not long ago a quite pious member of my congregation asked, a bit breathlessly, whether her beloved pet would be in heaven with her. I’m sure this breathless woman’s pet was doggedly faithful to her, and she apparently felt that she didn’t want a heaven absent such a loyal friend.

What could I say? “Ma’am, I’m quite sure all dogs go to heaven.” But that would compromise my teaching mandate from the Roman Catholic Church. I came up with something like: “Ma’am, God will provide the best for your dog, and the best for you. When you get to Heaven (by God’s grace), you, and Fido, will be perfectly happy.” I didn’t mention that Fido will have ceased to exist by that time, presuming she didn’t precede her beloved pet in death. But how can a loving pastor speak those harsh words to such a delicate member of the congregation?

I grew up with dogs, and in fact, one of them died in my arms (after having been hit by a car). I heard her last wail of agony, and I felt her last breath. Misty’s death hit my parents like a freight train, and they never had another dog after her. Domesticated dogs (and even cats) are one of God’s greatest consolations to us, and I can understand how people want their pets to have immortal souls, so as to live forever with them in heaven.

But here’s the thing: we all have to die someday. And death means letting go, and letting God. To ask the question of “what will I have in heaven with me?” betrays a certain attitude of control that we must surrender before sister death comes for us, lest she have to forcibly wrest if from us. In the end, we must trust God, absolutely. We must learn to stop telling him what we will need in heaven, kind of like the pharaohs of old who piled up all the toys and food they needed for heaven in their burial chambers.

God will provide for us in heaven, and we will be supremely happy, with or without our dogs (and cats). If we fret about what heaven will have or not have, it means simply we are not ready for heaven. So try to stop fretting. Heaven will be …. hmmmm …. “what no eye has seen and no ear has heard.”

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