Of Popes & Animals

~by Susi Pittman

Pope Francis a few years ago was in the news for reaffirming a quote by Pope Paul VI regarding animals being in heaven. One TV morning show marveled at the fact that the Pope would even believe such, stating that Catholic theology doesn’t believe animals go to heaven. Does our Catholic faith teach that animals don’t go to heaven?

The Roman Catholic Church has been timeless in its teachings of Creation and in its “openness” to animals indeed being in heaven, though it neither rejects nor affirms if they are. Our Church has recorded history of personal visions of heaven by some of our great saints, and there are the Biblical scriptures that certainly add credence to believing that heaven holds more than just human souls.

Saint John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Order of priests was privileged to have been shown the “glorified natural” of heaven, by his guide, St. Dominic where upon he made this statement:

Broad, imposing avenues divided the plain into grand gardens of indescribable beauty…None of the plants we know could ever give you an idea of those flowers…The very grass, the flowers, the trees, the fruit—all were of singular and magnificent beauty. The various kinds of plants were beyond counting. Each species and each single plant sparkled with a brilliance of its own.

Saint John Bosco was so amazed and overwhelmed with wonder, he asked St. Dominic; I am shaking because I don’t know where I am. Is this the reward of the just?

To which he was given this answer; Not at all! Here we do not enjoy supernatural happiness but only a natural one, though greatly magnified…enhanced by God’s power! (Dreams, Visions & Prophecies of Don Bosco; Don Bosco Publications, New Rochelle, New York; copyright 1986)

Certainly this was a heavenly vision of creation renewed, perfected. And if there is a place for the flora of creation, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the Creator would also have planned for the animate creation?

Many other of our Catholic saints have been given visions of heaven in many glorious fashions which included natural things and creatures: St. John the Apostle, St. Bridget, St. Monica, St. Hildegard, St. Padre Pio, St. Faustina, St. Bridget, St. Catherine, St. Gertrude, St. Mechtilde, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi,  St. Lydwine of Schiedam, St. Christina the Astonishing, Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, Bl. Alexandrina, Sr. Josefa Menendez, and others.

Certainly Saint Thomas Aquinas’ vision of heaven was the most profound. Saint Thomas was the author of Summa Theologica, the most important theological work ever produced. He was given a vision of heaven at Mass on December 6, 1273, to which he gave a powerful statement; I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw. (Butler’s Lives of the Saints; Thurston & Attwater Revision)

If what he was shown out-weighed everything he had ever written, (he was brilliant and gifted) can you imagine what must have been revealed to him, to stop him from writing ever again?

I tend to think, that having followed Aristotle’s philosophical line in believing animals did not have an eternal continuity, he might have seen so many creatures beyond man surrounding the Glory of God that it completely confounded him. (My personal reflection with a smile)

A book titled, The Church and Kindness to Animals, copyrighted in 1906, is full of instruction, directives and stories from Popes, Cardinals, Priests and Saints regarding the care and destiny of animals and is certainly a treasure to any Catholic who seeks consolation and hope for heaven for animals. In this book, Cardinal Ferdinand Donnet, an extremely respected holy man of sterling qualities, speaking at an Agricultural Meeting in France in 1866 says:

But if, as I like to bear witness, you are just and good to each other, why should you not also be just, good, and compassionate to the animals which help you to make your land productive, and to distribute its fruits? Our power over the creatures which surround us comes from God Himself…The Church, by the voice of her Sovereign Pontiffs, has placed herself at the head of the movement. (note: supporting a movement for compassion to animals) Human passions are revealed in the disastrous excesses which are found everywhere in nature; and religion has simply to combat them wherever they show themselves. It is in this sense that it has been said that the power of the Redemption has descended on all creatures, and that its merciful Author would restore the whole world. ‘To restore all things in Christ!’

Well, that certainly sounds like an endorsement for animals in heaven!

During a public audience in 1990, Pope Saint John Paul II affirmed, also the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren. Man uniquely has a soul that has been given intellect, rationale and free will, unlike the animals that are hard-wired to be exactly as God intended, but without free will and rationale.

Pope Paul VI is credited with comforting a young boy whose dog had died and affirming; One day we will see our animals again in eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.

We have Pope Leo XII that kept a pet dog in the Vatican and Pope Pius XII who kept a pet bird that enjoyed his freedom in and about the Papal apartment. In many of his actions, Pope Pius XII showed a great solicitude for animals.

Pope Benedict XVI adored cats and the feeling was mutually returned to His Holiness by the stray feline community in Rome.

As our Church’s “then” Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI had so many of his feline friends follow him from his apartment to the Vatican one day, that the Swiss Guard was heard to remark; The cats are laying siege to the Holy See!

So you see, the Catholic Church Pontiffs have certainly lent their own support of our lesser brethren and importantly, that they have given scriptural response to the fact that animals are included in the Redemptive plan.

I wrote my book Animals In Heaven? Catholics Want To Know! 5 years ago with this message of hope and comfort shared down through the ages in the traditions of the Catholic faith.

Biblical revelation and Church tradition informs us that we are only strangers in a strange land, nomads on a journey in search of a homeland. One that asks us to keep in mind that we are part of a greater family, not only human, but one that is the non-human and elemental, established by God as written in Genesis.

Created in the image of God, given intellect, free will and a unique human soul, humankind is called upon to act in peaceful, responsible stewardship, committed to the sound ecological and environmental virtues of hospitality and humility for this Earth, our home away from home.

So here are a few Biblical reminders from the Creator:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth. ~Colossians 1:15-16

God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world…and upholding all things by the word of his power…Hebrews 1:1-3

For the eager longing of creation awaits the revelation of the sons of God. For creation was made subject to vanity—not by its own will but by reason of him who made it subject—in hope, because creation itself also will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. For we know that all creation groans and travails in pain until now. Romans 8:19-22

And he who was sitting on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new!” And he said, “Write, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:5. The Bible footnote under this particular passage states: The quality of the earth will be changed but not the substance.

These scriptures and so many more could fill another book.

On a final note, there comes from the Old Testament, a testimony to the covenant God initiated with all of creation at the beginning of time and one that Jesus would affirm in the new covenant:

What now is has already been; what is to be, already is; and God restores what would otherwise be displaced. Ecclesiastes 3:15. The Bible footnote on this verse states: God restores; the meaning is probably that God allows no part of His creation to drop out of existence.

**Please know that all Bible scripture is from the Douay Rheims Edition, 1962.

** All emphasis by underline is mine

The “mystery” revealed in the Sacred Scriptures to all humankind is that God through Christ reconciles ALL things unto Himself. ALL THINGS.

If it were different, Jesus would have told us so. He would have said, only man…my favorite creature only…no animals allowed. He would have finished in Revelation with, Behold, I make all men new! But he did not.

Again and again, ALL THINGS resounds from the pages of scripture in the redemption picture, to no exclusions.

I don’t have any doubts what ALL THINGS mean. Let the intellectual’s rail with their ha-rumphs!

Animals In Heaven? I’m counting the days until, God willing, Jesus takes me by the hand and shines the beauty of the glorified natural upon my face, and in the splendor of heaven, where God has collected ALL his “good” inventory, I will share with Him in the grand reunion of ALL my human and non-human earthly family.

Into the wilderness

~by Susi Pittman

And immediately the Spirit drove him forth into the desert. And he was in the desert forty days and forty nights, being temped the while by Satan, and was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. *Mark 1:12-13

Then Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit, to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came … *Matthew 4:1-3

Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit about the desert for forty days. *Luke 4:1-2

I agree with so many theologians that believe that it was important to convey that Jesus came to redeem the whole of creation. Jesus’ going into the “wilderness” (the wild lands) of Israel harkens to the fact as it unfolds in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. It is a four-fold event.

We see first that He was led by the Spirit to go there; secondly he would be in the company of the wild animals that lived there; thirdly the Angels would be present to minister to Him; and fourth, the devil would come to tempt Him. Each of these is a wonderful subject matter to delve into, but my heart rests in the fact that He would choose the company of wild animals and Angels as he prepared to meet Satan face-to-face.

In the Old Testament Book of Isaiah 11:2-3, we see a foreshadowing of this exact event from the prophets…God setting the world and all creation right through a Messiah.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.

**Remember “fear of the Lord” is meant as “reverent awe.”

In the beginning of man’s relationship with His Father, Adam and Eve had broken the perfect harmony between man and the other creatures, as well as the whole of creation with their sinful disobedience to God. The prophets however, foretell of the “new Adam” that would come and restore this harmony.

Jesus fulfills the prophecy of the Old Testament as the “new Adam.”

The first man, Adam, became a living soul; the second Adam became a life-giving spirit…The first man was of the earth, earthly; the second man is from heaven, heavenly. ~1st Corinthians: 45,47

The Jewish countryside in Jesus’ time would have been scattered with farms where crops were grown and domesticated animals would graze. The wild animals that would wander in from the wild lands proposed a threat to both man and beast. There would have been; Asiatic lion, the Syrian brown bear, the Arabian leopard, the Asiatic cheetah, the white Orynx, the Persian fallow deer, the Roe deer, the Sand Cat, the Reed Cat, Arabian ostriches, Asiatic ostriches, the Saw-scaled viper and the Levant viper, the Arabian wolf, the Ibex, the Rock Hyrax, the Gazelle, the Camel, Wild Boar, Red fox, Blanford’s fox, the Badger and Hyenas. There would have been numerous birds, reptiles and insects.

So, Jesus’ going into the wilderness where He would be with His creation in its many diverse forms was seen as extremely dangerous. But this wasn’t just a mere man going out into the wilderness, this was the God-man. As the “new Adam,” He would be united with His animal creatures whom He created to respond first to their Creator. I believe they were specifically chosen by Our Lord because they were the perfect companions. The wild animals did not have the ability to turn against their Creator, because they were created to serve Him. Animals serve Him by design and the Angels in Heaven, chose by their free-will eons ago to serve Him eternally.

There was fraternity with the animals and Angels.

Their presence WAS important and was so mentioned in Sacred Scripture because Jesus’ redemption exceeds the bounds of just “humanity.”

There are those negative theologians who see Jesus in the wilderness with the wild animals as nothing more than being part of the hostile environment that Jesus would be tested in. But again, I ask you, if that were so, would that not contradict what Jesus’ mission was truly about?

Jesus’ messianic mission was to reconcile all things to Himself and to bring peace, bridging the abyss between man and creation, paying for it with His blood.

Through him he should reconcile to Himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross. ~Colossians 1:20

The presence of the animals and the Angels resounds with great clarity to this Scripture.

I envisioned Jesus in the desert surrounded by many of the wild animals that recognized their Creator and responded to Him with the loving affection of a household pet. The lion would have kept Jesus warm at night and the breeze of the ostrich wing would have cooled Him in the day.

In Jesus, the “new Adam” we are delivered from the sin and violence of this world and welcomed into the perfect harmony of eternal peace and love in the new world of the glorified creation as the old passes away…and Jesus’ journey into the wilderness is a message, a foretaste as to what awaits those who love the Lord.

And I saw the new heaven and the new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone. ~Revelation 21:1

Behold, I make ALL things new! ~Jesus ~Revelation 21:5

We are creation strong

~by Susi Pittman

Creation, what a magnificent word! It is a word that I use exclusively when referring to the created flora and fauna that I love so much. The word creation is indicative of a “relationship.” It reflects an intimacy with a Creator. It speaks to a relationship between human and non-human, the rational and the irrational, caregiver and cared for in the created order given by a Creator.

You see, we are not living in our own home we are first and foremost living in God’s home, uniquely created for all of us as the family of creation.

Man is a mediator. He is poised between two realities: God and the world. He shares in both, he is united to both. He cannot live apart from either: That is the meaning of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

~Paulos Gregorios~

Jesus, The Incarnation , The Word made flesh through Holy Mary dwells in the human person as does The Word dwell in creation. All (us, them, it) of creation entered into this world through Jesus.

He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature. For in Him were created all things

~Colossians 1:15

Saint Francis of Assisi saw creation and its diversity as the place where God was so beautifully and humbly present. Creation was a spiritual sanctuary and home.

It is spiritually depressing to listen to and watch how people cultivate their separation from the whole of creation. Ecclesiastes 3:18-20 tells us:

As for the children of men, it is God’s way of testing them and of showing that they are in themselves like beasts. For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast.

These same people are so ready to substitute the word nature for creation. Why? Because, the word nature holds no inherent religious meaning acknowledging a Creator. Today’s world tramples upon creation in its technological rush, profit-sharing and radical social justice.

Saint Francis of Assisi showed us that self-knowledge is so important to understanding our place and our job in the created order. We are creatures of God, uniquely endowed, but, still part of the whole of creation. By recognizing ourselves as care-givers in God’s house we can embrace our designated roles in stewardship.

For the eager longing of creation awaits the revelation of the sons of God …because creation itself also will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. For we know that all creation groans and travails in pain until now. ~Romans 8:19, 21-22~

We must remember there is an intimate connection between all of creation and Jesus. We walk on sacred ground. God’s home for us by natural design. We are called to love The Triune God in creation, not apart from it. Through The Word creations dignity rests as a co-beloved of God. We all must respect and care for creation and our brothers as co-beloveds.

We must remember this!

I heard the footsteps of God

~by Susi Pittman

I have walked so many journeys with the animals that have found their way to my door. Each and every one is unforgettable in its unique way and each one has drawn me closer to the Creator whose providential care does not forsake anything He has created.

EVERY animal that has come into my life has been either discarded or physically injured. There has been the dogs we adopted from the local animal shelter; the eight baby possums whose mother was struck by a car; the disabled wild rabbit that lived in our home for five years, the twenty feral cats that became house cats; the parakeet a friend could no longer keep and a cockatiel that arrived on a stormy night; the horses that were left to fend for themselves; the Maine loon rescued from the pounding surf off St. Augustine Beach; the injured baby Loggerhead turtle that arrived in the Sargasso seaweed and many more. Each an every one of these beautiful creatures were given sanctuary by our family and embraced as our co-family of creation.

There have been moments of extraordinary mystery that speaks of “God in the moment.” Such was one of those moments with a stray cat named Brownie who came into my life. I was called to be unswerving in my faith and in what I professed to believe….that nothing that God loves escapes His eye….and that love IS the most powerful force in the universe.

Brownie, my tiger came from an apartment complex where he had been abandoned by his previous owner. The maintenance men on the site had told me that Brownie had been there for some time and had reverted to being feral, not wanting to deal with humans anymore.

You can imagine how life is for a cat like Brownie. He was raised from a kitten in a home where he was fed and cared for and in the blink-of-an-eye, he is put out the door and his owners leave never to return. Going to other apartments to beg food, he was sent scurrying away with harsh words or an encouraging kick. It didn’t take long for him to learn that he could not trust humans anymore and that he would have to go into the woods and garbage cans to find what he could to survive.

I first saw Brownie as he sat looking at me from the woods, very thin, his big green eyes reflecting a pain in his spirit that melted my heart. We sat looking at each other for a time as I silently prayed to St. Francis for his loving touch on this beautiful cat.

I started putting out food each morning and evening and before long, Brownie would let me sit close by while he ate. It was a red-letter evening when he walked over and rubbed up against me and allowed me to pet him. I told him, “you’re home little guy, I won’t leave you.” He looked at me as if he knew it and I took him home with me to begin our life together.

It was on an October evening that Brownie as usual had jumped up on the table in the garage and had eaten his dinner. He joined me and some of the other cats on the front porch as the evening drew to a close, the younger cats playfully jumping on each other and racing into the nearby ferns. Brownie sat on the lawn and appeared to be at such peace as he turned and looked at me contentedly.

The next day…no Brownie.

The days without Brownie grew. It was as if the night had opened and swallowed him up. I felt a tremendous uneasiness and loss. I had never had a pet disappear for any length of time. There is such pain associated in dealing with the unknown. Where was he? Why did he go? Was he alive or dead? Was he trapped somewhere? Had he become lost? Was he hungry? Was he hurt? Could he hear my voice?

What on earth could I do?

I visited my neighbors, I put up posters, and I called the Sisters of St. Joseph for prayers for Brownies safe return.

I continued to leave food out on the garage table in the hopes that Brownie would come home.

It had been nine days and I was sure that Brownie was gone for good. If Brownie could have gotten home, he would have. He never missed a meal and he never missed his evening lap-pets. My heart was broken and I cried for the loss.

It was 11:30 P.M. of the 11th day, my daughter, Seana and I were talking. I told her, “I don’t know why this happened, but I know that God knows where Brownie is. Whatever happened, Brownie is known to God and I will not grieve anymore. He was always God’s cat and I accept whatever God has decided on Brownie.”

With those words, I felt a welcomed release of love in my heart. It was as though a heavenly peace had settled about me. I turned Brownie over to the Creator.

I kissed my daughter goodnight and went to bed.

It wasn’t even an hour later when she threw open my door, her voice filled with excitement, tears in her eyes as she cried, “He’s back Mom, Brownie’s back!”

I could hardly believe my ears.

I said, “Are you sure, is it Brownie, are you sure?”

She said, “Oh Mom, hurry come see!”

I stepped out into the garage and like a ghost from the past, there stood my Brownie hungrily eating the food on the table.

I walked carefully over to him, as I could tell he was skittish and I called his name. His eyes were wide and glazed and he appeared to be worse for wear, he was exhausted. His matted fur and low hung tail spoke volumes about his journey. So I hurriedly went to open two more cans of cat food, which he ate with unbridled vigor.

Finally, when he had eaten his fill, he turned to me with eyes that said, “I was so scared and now I am so tired…hold me.”

I listened to his breathing and smelled his fur as we both rested in the beauty and peace of two loves re-united.

I held Brownie to my heart and he fell asleep in moments. Wherever and whatever had happened will forever be a mystery, but he was home now and his worries were over. I sensed that something most powerful had seen Brownie home.

Love IS the most powerful force in the universe. It is in accepting “the will” of that Love that gives us peace. It is love that keeps us connected one-to-another whether near or far. It was love that had brought Brownie home.

At that moment, embracing Brownie in that heavenly silence, I heard the rescuers footsteps. I heard the soft “footsteps of God” as He walked away into the night.

But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

(Wisdom 11:24-26)

UPDATE: From that time on Brownie remained a very pampered “inside cat” until his death from cancer years later.

What’s In A Name?

~by Susi Pittman

When the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, he brought them to the man to see what the man called each of them; for that which the man called each of them would be its name. The man named the cattle, all the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field; ~Genesis 2:19-20~

Think back to the day when God created the first man and gave him dominion over all the earth and its creatures. God, in fatherly love gave an name to the first man, Adam, wanting Adam to be enjoined to Him in a personal relationship. The Divine Intimacy fills that which was un-named with the immediate recognition of something desired to be known. God would pass to Adam the gift of creation to not only love it and care for it, but to name each creature intimately as part of the whole that all creation shared.

Down through ancient times and right up to today, naming a new baby is a huge deal. In Hebrew culture, names revealed the character and nature of the one being named. Biblically, God sometimes would give a person a new name upon entering into covenant with them. In the Old Testament Abram became Abraham and in the New Testament, Simon became Peter (Petrus the Rock). The naming was important and signified a special relationship.

We name our children with great consideration. And we certainly name our pets because we have a special relationship with them. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and it is like the naming is programmed into our psyche.

Because someone or something has a name it is easy to establish relationship. Relationship begets communication, the more we communicate with one another, the more we come to know each other. The creatures of this world too are able to communicate albeit in a way that God hard-wired them to do.

As stewards through the centuries we have come to learn how to communicate with a good bit of the creatures in the natural realm. This is especially true in our relationship with our domestic pets. We name them, we enter into relationship with them, we communicate with them and don’t they also interact and communicate back with us? To the extent that God imbued them with His love, they are able to reflect His love back to us.

All creatures possess their own “particular good”…which is their own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws. Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. (CCC P339)

To name is to forge relationship. And the Lord would not have wanted us to have this foundation unless it was necessary for our “wholeness.”

God saw to it that mankind and animals could have relationships. And man and all creation has a relationship with its Creator….whether acknowledged or not. It is in the naming, that desire to personalize, to care for someone or something outside of ourselves, by drawing it into a personal relationship with us, that we truly exhibit what God did for us.

To all of you who choose to personalize and enjoin yourselves into relationship with your pets, the wild creatures and the beauty of creation, may God bless you in helping to make the world a little bit more of that “paradise” we lost!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

~ Psalms 150:6 ~

Having Dominion Over

~Susi Pittman

What IS having dominion over?

It is a subject that for most people is either one of two things, it is a biblical precept that is misunderstood or one that is ignored.

Nature is alive with the life of God. Man, uniquely created in God’s image is offered the “keepers keys” to care for and have dominion over all creation. When we read the creation event in Genesis, you get a sense of God’s eternal joy as He creates and proclaims that it was “good.” It’s as though it is so wonderful, that He must tell us again, “It was very good!” (Gen. 1:31).

I don’t intend to over-simplify this premise, but I am going to sum having dominion over non-human creation in just a few short paragraphs with a dab of holy insight and some scientific clarity.

These first two quotes come from what I personally observed and included in my book, Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!

Humankind, having been created in the image of God, is called to a true and abiding friendship with God. This includes loving His whole creation in a truthful way by faithful imitation of God’s love for all He has created. Through humankind, all of creation finds its destiny. (Susi)

God called out to humankind’s fidelity to govern creation with wisdom, compassion, and responsibility in response to God’s love. And humanity is to respond as cooperators and good stewards because we are the recipient of such a great gift from the Creator. (Susi)

And Sacred Scripture says; Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?” (Acts 7:49-59)

The third quote comes from a favorite Catholic Franciscan of mine, Friar Jack Wintz, author of Will I See My Dog in Heaven?:

The first thing we see is that the human style of dominion is meant to imitate very closely God’s style as Creator of the world. When we investigate God’s way of exercising dominion over the world and its creatures, whether nonhuman or human, we see a Creator who is love, gentle, thoughtful, and wise. God creates in a reverent and caring way, making sure that everything is “good” at every stage….There is never a sense that God is acting in a domineering or exploitative way. God’s dominion is one of respect, not of heavy-handed domination. This is the way that humans are meant to exercise dominion over their sister and brother creatures and the created world.

The fourth quote is from an Irish Monsignor and superb Catholic theologian, Father Charles Murphy, author of At Home On Earth:

Since human dominion over the creation is to be carried out on behalf of God and is accountable to him, the divine rule becomes the norm of human behavior in this regard. Understood in this way, to have dominion emerges as “to care for,” not to manipulate and to exploit.

The fifth and final quote comes from a wonderful man, a scientist, I met in Washington D.C. who is considered the father of the field of veterinary ethics, Bernard Rollin, author of Animal Rights & Human Morality:

Correlatively, the Bible forbids “plowing with an ox and an ass together” (Deut. 22:10-11). According to the rabbinical tradition, this prohibition stems from the hardship that an ass would suffer by being compelled to keep up with an ox, which is, of course, far more powerful. Similarly, one finds the prohibition against “muzzling an ox when it treads out the grain” (Deut. 25:4-5), and even an environmental prohibition against destroying trees when besieging a city (Deut. 20:19-20). These ancient regulations, virtually forgotten, bespeak an eloquent awareness of the status of animals as ends in themselves. How ironic, indeed, in the face of such passages, that the Bible has most often been used as a justification for man’s using animals and nature as he chooses, in virtue of the “dominion” passage in Genesis. Clearly, “dominion” does not entail or allow abuse any more than does the dominion a parent enjoys over a child.

Each and every one of us, no exclusion, is called to imitate God in “good” stewardship of the earth and all upon it! No exploitation. No abuse. No inhumane treatment. No scientific and vivisection exploitation. It is and has been God’s call to man to attend to a vocation of love to not only love and care for one another but, to love and care for all that exists. Given the harmony between man and the nonhuman created world that existed in the beginning as seen in Genesis, it is modern man’s ultimate journey to subdue the earth back to its original and intended harmony, a journey that requires radical love of creation and leaving ones self for one’s original purpose which was and should once again be, to love and serve God.

God has been revealed in “two books,” not one—the book of scripture and the book of nature. If there appears to be a conflict between the two, we have misinterpreted one or the other.

–St. Augustine, Enchiridion, trans. Albert Outler, Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1955), 342.