I'm not a churchgoer, mostly because I can't sit still for an hour long service, but I'm still a believer. I was raised Lutheran and am still comfortable theologically and politically with the mainline Protestant churches.
But I continue to be impressed with Pope Francis, and something he said recently was especially moving.
In his weekly audience in St Peter’s Francis quoted the apostle Paul who comforted a child who was crying after his dog died.One of the things which makes us most human is our love for other animals. We love our pets as family members, and sometimes we find cruelty to animals more disturbing than cruelty to humans.
“One day we will see our animals again in eternity of Christ’, Francis quoted Paul as saying. The Pope added: “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.”
His position is markedly different from that of Pope Benedict XVI said that the other animals ‘are not called to the eternal life’.
I'm a skeptic on stereotypical supernatural things, like ghosts and angels. I like to think that what lies beyond is more than we can see or even imagine.
But sometimes I wonder.
Our animal friends help us feel and see God's unconditional, non-judgemental love. What if they are the real angels, and that's why they are only able to stay with us so briefly compared to our long lifespans?
These are my friends Butter and Spot. They comforted me in some of my darkest days. They've been gone six and five years now, and though I still have my other friends Dylan and Xavier, I miss Butter and Spot all the time.
I like the idea of a heaven with Butter and Spot in it.
Francis of Assisi was patron saint to the animals, and Jorge Bergoglio chose that particular name which no other Pope in 2000 years had ever used. Maybe now we know a little more about why.
If nothing else, he has given some comfort to two billion Christians, and maybe to people of other or no faiths. And that's part of what belief is about.