Will dogs go to heaven?
It’s a question I’m asked a lot. And while I imagine that the goodness of all of God’s creation is represented in heaven to some extent, my answer to this question is always the same:
I don’t know. But what I do know is that you are created in God’s image and that Jesus died for your soul, not your dog’s.
Maybe it sounds harsh. But I think our society has somehow forgotten this essential truth that has been made known for us from the very beginning: “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
God created every single person in His image. You more closely reveal to the world the image of God than the mountains, the oceans, the stars, and yes — even your dog. And it is because we are created in this image of God that we have been given intrinsic dignity — equally and inherently worthy of love.
Entrusted with a Mission
Shortly after God created humankind, he entrusted us with a mission: to have dominion over creation. This does not mean to rule over creation in an exploitative manner — conquering it as if it is an object to be won. Rather, like a good king, we are called to care and protect all that has been entrusted to us. Then in a particular way, we must then care for human beings — the pinnacle of God’s creation.
It is from this mission, a mission Christ perfected, that Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is born. This teaching, rooted in Scripture, has been articulated throughout the ages through a tradition of papal, conciliar, and episcopal documents. Generally, the Church focuses on the following seven principles:
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
- The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
- Care of God’s Creation
Over the next several months, we will be examining each of these principles, the Scripture and tradition in which they are founded, and how to live out the Church’s teaching on that principle in our day-to-day life. I hope that as we journey through this series together, you will see that this mission is not optional but fundamental to our call to be Christian.
The Life and Dignity of the Human Person
St. John Paul II wrote, “Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh (cf. John 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church. Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart; it cannot but affect her at the core of her faith in the Redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, and engage her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life in all the world and to every creature (cf. Mark 16:15)”(Evangelium Vitae, no. 3).
Surrounded by a culture of death, we must valiantly and courageously reveal the culture of life to the world. This culture does not view humans as disposable objects or inconveniences; instead, it seeks to protect, nourish, and support every person from conception until natural death — even (perhaps, especially) those we deem unworthy. From conception until natural death. I want to emphasize the “until” part of that phrase. There is a lot of life lived between conception to natural death. In the last ten years, the pro-life movement has been placed on my heart, and I have joined the Church’s valiant mission to end abortion in a new way. But caring for the human person MUST go beyond this cause. If we want mothers and fathers to choose life, we necessarily need to protect those who have already been born.
Where to Begin
- What does our society value over life?
- Is our society’s values the best way to determine someone’s worth?
- Have you ever been treated in a way that made you feel less dignified? How did that make you feel?
- How can you uphold the dignity of every person in your day-to-day life?
- Research pro-life ministries/crisis pregnancy centers in your town and see if there are any ways you can support their ministry (make sure the pregnancy center does not offer abortions)
- Avoid gossiping about friends, family members, etc.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Learn the people’s stories.
- See if your parish has a prison ministry and how you can support it.
- Sit with one of your peers who is always alone.
- Say hello to the homeless person rather than ignoring them.
- Write letters to the elderly at a local nursing home.
Jesus revealed to us that every person is worthy of love, despite their sin: “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). Recall that Jesus’ devoted much of his earthly mission to being with the poor and forgotten, the sick and the broken, the sinners whose sin caused a scandal in their communities. May we follow his example and lead this world away from darkness to light, from death to life. May our friends, family, communities see in us a love for the dignity of life that transcends societal norms and standards.