Friar pens new book on old questions
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
CATHEDRAL DEANERY — Will we see our beloved pets in the hereafter? Does God’s plan for eternity include all of His creation?
Franciscan Father Jack Wintz, a friar of the Cincinnati-based St. John the Baptist Province, answers these questions with an unequivocal “yes” in his new offering I Will See You in Heaven (Paraclete Press, 2010). It is a condensed, gift edition of his 2009 book Will I See My Dog in Heaven? God’s Saving Love for the Whole Family of Creation.
Father Wintz, also known as “Friar Jack,” has been a member of the Franciscan community for more than 50 years. He is a longtime editor at St. Anthony Messenger and author of Friar Jack’s E-spirations, an electronic newsletter.
Both books originated with an article he wrote for St. Anthony Messenger in July 2003, titled “Will I See My Little Doggie in Heaven?” Numerous inquiries from adults and children over the years regarding their pets’ afterlife compelled him to further explore the subject.
“The question of whether they will see their dogs or other pets in heaven is an important question to so many people because they become so fond of their pets and some are keenly interested in whether they will see them in the next life,” he explained.
Although he doesn’t currently have a pet of his own, Father Wintz does have experience caring for animals, including a boyhood dog named Toppy, and has developed close bonds with various furry creatures through the years. He shares some of these experiences in I Will See You in Heaven.
The longtime friar also brings his deep devotion to the Franciscan charism and evidence from Scripture, Christian tradition and from the life of St. Francis of Assisi to the book, showing that there will be other creatures besides humans who will be enjoying life with God in heaven. The book features prayers and blessings for all companion animals and offers hope and inspiration to those who have just lost, or are soon to lose, a beloved pet.
“Much of my motivation for writing both books comes from my years as a Franciscan,” Father Wintz said. “I have a great fascination for Francis’ respect for animals, as well as trees, wildflowers and for all of creation as a whole. He preached to the birds, referred to a rabbit as ‘brother rabbit’ and to a raven as ‘sister raven.’ He called these creatures brother and sister because he came to the conclusion that all creatures belong to one family of creation. This is something that is very strong in the book. Brother and sister are family terms, suggesting that all creatures are part of one family.”
“Another message in the book deals with God’s saving love for that whole family of creation,” Father Wintz added. “It seems like Scripture says that. Noah’s Ark is a wonderful example of God’s desire to save all of creation. God didn’t just call humans to His family. He was inclusive.”
He acknowledges the books are similar in some ways, but there are also differences. “The new book is an easier read,” he said. “Some parts of the first book are more theologically complex and some readers might be happy not to have to wrestle with those complexities, while others might prefer that very challenge.”
“One thing that makes the new book very attractive is its smaller size and gift book style and the special presentation page at the front of the book in memory of a pet that has died,” Father Wintz added. “The dedication page allows people to give the book to relatives or friends to keep their pet ‘in loving remembrance.’”
Father Wintz said both books have touched people. “When I’ve been at book signings, I was surprised how often it would happen that when readers who have had pets that died, they would break into tears. And when I asked them if they would like me to add words such as ‘in memory of Rover or Georgy Girl,’ they seemed to be emotionally moved all the more.”
Both of Father Wintz’s books are distributed through St. Anthony Messenger Press (www.americancatholic.org) and the publisher (www.paracletepress.com).
This article originally appeared on thecatholictelegraph.com on Thursday, September 30, 2010