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Catholic Cemeteries: Grieving the Loss of our Pets

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By Kathy Fanger

October 4 is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the ecology. Saint Francis had a special love of animals and saw them as part of his brotherhood and the mirror of God. He referred to them as his “brothers” and “sisters.”

For many of us, our pets are beloved members of our lives and families. On or near the Feast of Saint Francis, many Catholic schools and churches welcome students and adults to bring their pets to be sprinkled with holy water and blessed by the priest They do so with great love and pride. Prayers of gratitude are offered to God for the gift of God’s wonderful creatures.

When a pet dies…
it is natural to feel devastated with grief and sadness. Father Brendan McGuire, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, shared an intense bond of friendship with his two former dogs, Bubba and then Blackie. In a 2006 bulletin article, Father Brendan wrote,”Bubba had been my faithful companion for six years. He had a malignant tumor in his jaw. There was really nothing we could do except make his last days comfortable and loving. I have mourned his loss with a heavy heart.” Then in 2014, “It is with profound sadness that I share that my beloved dog Blackie died suddenly on Pentecost Sunday after only one day of being sick. My soul aches with sadness for my faithful companion and best friend for eight years. Words cannot express my sense of loss as he accompanied me everywhere.” He added, “God gives us animals to help us to love better. God continues to share his love through our human friends and family, but also sends us animals to remind us of his unconditional love. It is so important that we treasure the gifts that God gives us each day and not take them for granted, whether they are people or pets.”

For a child…
the loss of a pet is often their first experience with death. Holding a funeral or creating a memorial (a picture or photograph) for their pet can help a child express their feelings openly and help process the loss. There are many illustrated children’s books that address the loss of pets that often bring hope and comfort.

In the Kingdom of Heaven…
Pope Francis writes in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, “Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature will take its rightful place…” Animals are a special part of God’s creation, however they differ from humans in that an animal does not have a spiritual soul. God has prepared a place for the spiritual souls of his children in heaven.
Saint Francis reminds us that all of creation is sacred. We honor that by remembering the lives of those we love, including our beloved pets.

Having Faith During Difficult Times

Saint Victor Parish-Library
3108 Sierra Road, San Jose
October 1, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Presenter: Monsignor John Sandersfeld
How has faith helped me at difficult times find Jesus as the WAY, the TRUTH, and LIFE, to come to know my own giftedness and that of others, and live life more fully in the joy of the Kingdom?

For more information regarding Catholic Cemeteries, please visit www.ccdsj.org.