When pets die, do they go to heaven?

Do dogs, cats and others pets go to heaven when they die? This is a question that children (as well as some adults) ask when a beloved non-human family member passes away.

The Catholic Church doesn’t actually pronounce whether pets go to heaven or not. Sometimes, though, in a moment of pastoral insensitivity or because of a lack of proper grounding, an adult – and sometimes even an authority such as a priest or a parent – incorrectly states that according to the Church, animals do not go to heaven.

Lancer (our former Black Lab) and Pookie (our former rat) got along well as friends

Lancer and Pookie, pets of ours from years ago

My family ran into this at our parish when the associate pastor announced to a full church of families with children that his cat had died and that “we all know that pets don’t go to heaven”.  I can’t imagine how much harm he did that day from the pulpit, pretending to be authoritative on an area out of his depth. If nothing else, even had he mistakenly believed this to be Catholic teaching, there was no pastoral benefit to his statement – only harm.  What was he thinking? Continue reading

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Introduction of new liturgical changes

kudosAlthough the changes to prayers and songs at Mass aren’t officially required until the beginning of Advent this year, many parishes and other Catholic communities (such as at Mission Santa Clara) in the Diocese of San Jose have already begun introducing some of the new music or wording to help Catholics adjust more easily.

I think this is a very good idea.  While the history of the Church includes a good deal of “history of change”, it’s almost always a challenge for Catholics when they are in the midst of it.  With the massive changes after Vatican II, some Catholics never accepted the modifications and sought solace in breakaway or schismatic groups where the Latin Mass was still the norm.  Changes can cause alienation and I think we have learned that we need to be sensitive to the upset and introduce any alterations carefully.

Kudos to our bishop, and others, who wisely understand the need for the gradual adaption by the faithful.

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Minister of Parish Life – When a Lay Person Acts As Pastor

changes in the churchAs one consequence of the ongoing shortage of priests, we are seeing the emergency of more lay leadership at the parish level.  When the role of pastor cannot be held by a priest, the job title is changed to “Minster of Parish Life” and may be filled by a lay person, male or female, a deacon or member of a religious order .  We are certain to see this as an increasing trend while the continuing decline in numbers of priests (both religious and diocesan) continues.   (Another consequence is increased use of priests from abroad.)

In late July, the newest Minister of Parish life was appointed: Dorothy Carlson, who will serve in that role at St. Justin parish in Santa Clara.  Read the full story on the Diocese of San Jose’s website.

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Ordination in the Diocese of San Jose – Streaming Live

Have you ever wondered what happens at the ordination to the priesthood? If you haven’t been to one of these beautiful services, this weekend you’ll have the chance to see it (and you won’t even need to go out into the rain).

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose is going to live stream the ordination of three men to the priesthood today at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph:


You can also view the music which will be used in the multi-lingual Mass here:


Congratulations to Angelo De Leon David, Steve Ji Hoon Kim and Andrew Chithong Nguyen!

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Silicon Valley Catholic Retirement & Care Center

Have you ever thought about how you might like to spend your elderly years, should you want or need to be in a seniors facility?  I have been blessed to have many, many relatives live long lives and most of them lived in independent living, assisted living, or skilled nursing at some point.  Some of the very best places were Catholic; it is a real blessing when there is excellent care for seniors and those needing long term care and it’s also a Catholic community.

My grandparents enjoyed living at Dominican Oaks in Santa Cruz for a number of years, close to a decade. It’s a Catholic retirement community for independent seniors (not those needing assisted living or nursing care). Close to Dominican Hospital, and thus also to good medical care, this community also offered daily Mass and was a magnet for Catholics retiring in the Santa Cruz area. I recall seeing many older sisters, brothers, priests, and even a bishop back in the 1990s there. It was my first exposure to Catholic retirement residences, and I thought it did a good job.  The only shortcoming, that I could see, is that there was no advanced care available, so many seniors could not move there and simply stay put.

Unfortunately I saw this downside upfront.  Since it didn’t offer multiple levels of care, when my grandmother became very ill, Dominican Oaks essentially kicked them out.  That was a sad day for my dying grandmother as well as for the rest of the clan. How much easier it would have been had Dominican Oaks had a license for more advanced care (or applied to the state for a waiver, which we later learned was an option).  My grandparents moved to Aegis of Aptos for a few weeks.   That was heartbreaking as my grandmother kept asking to “go home”. Continue reading

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A little Catholic humor

It’s Friday and time for a little Catholic humor.  You can’t be Catholic (or, for that matter, be a “former Catholic”) without having to chuckle once in awhile at some of what passes for well-intentioned piety.

Today a cousin of mine introduced me to a blog, Saint Kitsch.  If you’ve ever seen photos of kitschy nativity sets and smirked, you will enjoy it.


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Mission San Juan Bautista in Hollister – Mother’s Day is a Perfect Day to Visit!

Mission San Juan Bautista is one of the most beautifully authentic California Missions in the Silicon Valley area.  It is so much the case that Mission San Juan Bautista is often the destination of fourth grade field trips as students in the Golden State are required to do a Mission Project during that academic year and a better, more lovely example of a Roman Catholic Mission can’t be found so close in.

While any time is a good time to visit this historic and scenic church, Mother’s Day is an especially ideal one as the South Valley Symphony will be performing there too.  Perfect day for mom: Mass, self guided tour of the mission, brunch and music!  Maybe squeeze a little shopping in too.

For more information on Mission San Juan Bautista:

History of this mission
Schedule of Masses
Mission brochure in English
Mission Brochure in Spanish

You can read about the concert in the Morgan Hill Times.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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Why Go To Mass?

Why should we go to Mass? That’s an age-old question that Catholic parents face year in and year out.  But it’s not just something that people must discuss with their kids; for many of us, the issue of whether or not to attend Mass is one we may ponder weekly for ourselves.

Am I too busy?
Will Mass be boring?
Will I “get anything out of it“?
I’m so tired…do I have the energy to go?

Continue reading

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When Bad Homilies Happen (to Good Catholics)

Everyone’s a critic.  When it comes to preaching and to homilies, it has got to be tough to get up in front of the community and be inspiring and insightful if you’re under-slept, overworked, rushed or maybe even going through a rough time yourself.  But this aspect of a priest or deacon’s life is so very important that it can seriously help or hinder the faith life of those present to hear it.

You can’t say that about committee meetings.

We expect so much of our clergy, whether diocesan or religious.  There are a thousand important things to do.  I would assert, though, that preaching (which comes with its own requirements such as preparing ahead of time and prayer) probably should go pretty high up on the priorities list.

I have been very fortunate to hear some truly exceptionally wonderful homilies.  There are some priests who are extremely gifted (and probably work hard at it too) and who manage to crowd the church with people who just want to hear them expound on the readings of the day.  At my parish we had a visiting priest, a Jesuit named Fr. John Murphy, SJ, who used to come out to say Mass sometimes.  His preaching was so profound and remarkable that you could hear people in church whisper that what they were hearing was amazing. One relative of mine would bring a tape recorder to the church so she could play the homily back later.   (How many people in the pews want to hear the same homily a second time?)

Unfortunately, sometimes – albeit very rarely – homilies are not just bad, but they are destructive.  Luckily this is very very seldom the case, but if it happens to you it’s not a small deal.  It can be a very big deal and it can risk alienating one from the faith. Continue reading

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We All Want & Need Heroes

Growing up Catholic, in an intensely Irish-Catholic family, I had no shortage of extraordinary role models right within my big, extended family.

Two amazing Catholic women

My Great Aunt Ria (Sr. Marie Aimee of Jesus), my maternal grandmother’s sister, was a Carmelite nun with a sweet, sunny disposition whose gratitude for every little thing seemed to me to be one of her most prominent traits.  As a cloistered, contemplative sister in Carmel, she didn’t have a ton of visitors or a ton of talking time each day (unless it was the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as I recall, which allowed a lot more conversation than usual).  She and her religious sisters lived more simply than I could imagine, slept on mattresses of hay, and were extremely prayerful.  And yet sometimes she and other sisters in her monastery would “go on retreat“. As a teenager, I’m sure I thought someone was pulling my leg when I was told that they did so. From what I could tell, Aunt Ria and the other sisters in her community were always on retreat.

The Four Fletcher Sisters: Thomasina (Tommy), Maria (Ria), Eleanor and OliviaMy Aunt Ria was one of my heroes; she made a life of prayer and sacrifice appear not only effortless, but natural (in the same way that a ballerina puts years of training into making that dance form look effortless, I imagine).  She was down to earth and a wonderful pen pal.  Her ego did not seem to be part of the picture.  When she was very old, in her middle 90s, she became forgetful.  One of the sisters in her community said to her that “Our Lord is taking your memory”.  To that, she replied with complete sincerity, “He can take anything he wants“.  She meant it, too….Her life was God’s.

Continue reading

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