Are Animals "Ensouled"?
Dear Spirit to Spirit friend,
This reflection by Ilia Delio came through Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations offering. Ilia Delio is
a Franciscan Sister and an
"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"
In Gratitude & Love, Joanna