In some churches, it is taught that animals have no souls. This is typically true in the Catholic Church, which is strange because Catholic tradition is rich with folklore about amazing encounters between saints and the animal kingdom, including stories about the taming of fierce wolves, and the conversion of birds to Christianity.
In one such legend, a man named St. Anthony is struggling desperately to convert a group of heretics to the true faith. After days upon days of sharing the Good News of Christ with them, they still refuse to take him seriously. So St. Anthony decides to try something else. He walks over to the mouth of a nearby river, and in front of all these alleged heretics, St. Anthony begins to preach to the fish. He reminds them of all of their blessings—the water they live in, the food that God gives to sustain their lives, the fins that let them swim to their little heart’s content. And almost immediately, the mouth of the river swells with fish, who stick their heads out of the water to listen to St. Anthony. In the words of one storyteller—and I quote—“At (the) preaching of St. Anthony, some of the fishes began to open their mouths, and all of them nodded their heads, and by these and other signs of reverence they praised God as much as they could.”
Well, after being a pet owner for several years, I have to confess that I’ve also become one of those people who like to pretend that he can converse with animals. This is my cat, Monroe.
As you can see, I’m quite comfortable talking to him, and pretending that he’s talking back. And like St. Anthony, I even preach to him sometimes, practicing my sermons on a Saturday afternoon while I make him listen. Let’s just say he’s not nearly attentive as St. Anthony’s fish.
But you know, I like this story about St. Anthony, because it reminds us that even fish can have personality, and so do our cats, our dogs, and all of our other pets. I might not go so far as saying that fish are people too, nor do I think that animals are intelligent as we are….generally speaking. But they are still living creatures, animated by the divine breath of God. And I believe that when they die, that life force will return to its creator in Heaven.
For God made these creatures. God gave them life. And God saw that it was good.
Rev. Seth Ethan Carey