Francis and the Animals
Thursday, October 7, 2021
Readers of the Daily Meditations may be familiar with the theological and scientific work of Ilia Delio. Today we share a reflection that honors both her Franciscan theology and her personal relationship with a beloved pet.
It is almost a week since our beloved cat, Mango, was put to sleep. . . .
We had rescued Mango a little more than eight years earlier. . . . He liked to sleep in the chapel and often joined us for prayer in the evening. Mango was real presence. And it is his presence that was sorely missed.
Recent questions in ecology and theology have focused on animal life. Do animals have souls? Do animals go to heaven? Without becoming entangled in theological discourse, I want to say quite clearly that Mango was ensouled. His soul was a core constitutive beingness, a particularity of life that was completely unique, with his own personality and mannerisms. To use the language of [Franciscan philosopher] Duns Scotus, Mango revealed a haecceitas, his own “thisness.” Scotus placed a great emphasis on the inherent dignity of each and every thing that exists. . . .
Each living being gives glory to God by its unique, core constitutive being. . . . To be a creature of God is to be brought into relationship in such a way that the divine mystery is expressed in each concrete existence. Soul is the mirror of creaturely relatedness that reflects the vitality of divine Love.
I did not have to wonder whether or not Mango had a soul. I knew it implicitly by the way he listened to me talking or thinking aloud, the way he sat on my office chair waiting for me to finish writing so he could eat, or simply the way he looked at me—eye to eye—in the early morning, at the start of a new day. Soul existence is expressed in the language of love. . . .
Love makes us something; it makes us alive and draws us in to the dynamism of life, sustaining life’s flow despite many layers of sufferings and disappointments. . . . If God is love, then the vitality of love, even the love of a furry creature, is the dynamic presence of God. . . .
Every creature is born out of the love of God, sustained in love, and transformed in love. Every sparrow that falls to the ground is known and loved by God (cf. Matthew 10:29); the Spirit of God is present in love to each creature here and now so that all creaturely life shares in cosmic communion. . . .
As I reflect on Mango’s death, his haecceitas, and the mystery of love, I have no doubt that his core love-energy will endure. His life has been inscribed on mine; the memory of his life is entangled with my own. My heart grieves for Brother Mango, my faithful companion, but I believe we shall be reunited in God’s eternal embrace.
Ilia Delio, The Hours of the Universe: Reflections on God, Science, and the Human Journey (Orbis Books: 2021), 235, 236, 237–238.
Story from Our Community:
If all the plants and animals were no longer on Earth, humans could not survive. However, if humans were no longer on Earth, the animals and plants would thrive. Therefore, who needs who? I pray for all of God’s creation to live within their means and take no more than what they need. We are all connected and God has created us with purpose—to purposefully love. We don’t really need that much. Our lives could be simple and all the more beautiful because of it. —Colleen D.
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