The picture at right shows “Tommy” the Dog. According to the article which featured the picture, Tommy the dog has not missed a single mass in the small church in southern Italy where his owner’s funeral was held. When the bells of the Santa Maria Assunta church in San Donaci toll each afternoon the 12-year-old German Shepherd sets off from the village to get himself a front row seat next to the altar. After following his mistress’s coffin up to the church on the day of her funeral, Tommy has returned daily, sitting quietly throughout masses, baptisms and funerals, according to local priest Donato Panna, who now wouldn’t do without him.

It is a remarkable feat of “faith” or shall we say remembering. Here was the last place the dog experienced his owner. And thus it is here that the dog gathers with others each day to “remember.”

At the Last Supper Jesus expressed a wish, it was the final request of a dying friend and Lord: Do this in remembrance of me. And thus each Sunday, indeed, every day the Church gathers with her Lord to remember.

Old Tommy the Dog gets it, he remembers. He comes each day to the last known sighting of his former owner, a lady whom the townsfolk say loved the Lord.

Tommy the Dog is in the right place, for at the altar, at Jesus feet, he is close to his owner, for she is in caught up in the Lord as a member of the Lord’s mystical body. And to be close to the Lord is to be close to her.

I often tell people who have lost loved ones that they will never be closer to them now than at the Altar of the Lord.

Tommy the Dog “gets it.” Do you and I? Are you smarter than a dog? Do we have more faith than this Dog?

Scripture says, The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master’s manger: but Israel has not known me, and my people have not understood. (Is 1:3).

Well, lets hope that’s not the Lord’s final description of us. Let’s hope a few of us “get it” and have come to find and know the Lord.

Follow the example of Tommy the Dog.  Yes Tommy, you’ve got it right.

22 Responses

  1. luzminda penaranda says:

    Msgr. Pope i just want to thank you for yesterday’s blog, you came right at the very moment i am being persecuted by group of atheist in my other site. They were asking me to define faith, i gave them an example and define it in the most simple manner that i can say. They are looking for a definition from the dictionary, then suddenly your blog came about faith and i forwarded it to them. Of course they prefer animals and other material things. So this blog i will again post on their sight so they can see the difference of the god that they worship. Thank you so much Msgr. Pope and thank you Lord for sending my friend to my rescue. I love you Lord Jesus, praise be to God forever.

  2. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    Perhaps the dog sees more than we do and his deceased master is going to the chuch daily and the dog is just following. There are spirits who remain for periods of time after death to look over ones they have departed from. I know you probably think the Church puts that to rest in the Church funeral but that’s not always the case. It’s not up to you to decide when one’s work here on earth is completed. All things are possible with God.

    • Hmm…. Do you have some Gnostic insight going on here Robertllc?

      • Robertlifelongcatholic says:

        No. I once related the story to you of a meditative experience I had when I was 22 years old in which the Spirit revealed a series of experiences I had when I was five years old. The mediation involved asking Jesus to explain why I was more concerned about treating others as God would want rather than being concerned about persuing selfish motives which many of my gerneration were concerned with at that time. I was trying to amicably break off a relationship with a girl who had moved a good distance away to college and was writing letters when I knew well our lives were growing apart. In the meditative process my body became numb as I sat there experiencing several levels which gradually withdrew my physical sensations until I felt no bodily sensation at all as I explained to you before and it ended in a bodiless experience being in or one with a florescent atmospheric space and consumate peace. It was there shortly after reaching this state that I began recalling a series of events that had happened when I was five years old. I had totally forgotten about these events for the past 17 years mainly because at the time they occured, I did not comprehend what their relevance was being five years of age. What was revealed was that on two separate occasions I was outside in my backyard and alley when I came upon a horned toad on a pile of old lumber which our father ahd told us no to get on because of nails and a couple of golf clubs sticking out of the neighbors trash can I wanted to retrieve for me and my older brother to play golf with. On thes two occasions as I attempte to catch the horned toad and get the golf clubs, someone behind me said ” No Bobby.” Startled, I looked around only to find no one there or anywhere as I peered around the areas behind bushes and garages expecting someone to be there. Both times I left the areas bewildered and without completing my intended objectives. One day some time later my kindergarden teacher was reading a story out og the Bible as she did occasionally. It was about an angel appearing and telling the man what God wanted him to do. It may have been the story of Noah or where Joseph was told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. When she finished the story she said that we all have guardian angels and maybe sometimes our guardian angels talk to us. It was at that point I recalled the two previous experiences with the voice and was sure that it was my guardian angel. Excited, I told this girl sitting next to me taht my guardian angel had spoken to me and she began calling me a liar and ridiculing me. I was determined if I heard the voice again taht I would speak back to it. At some later date I was playing out in my front yard diveway with some raod graders that my brother and I had gotten for Christmas some months earlier and I was startled by an Anguished voice of one standing over me sayinf, “Oh Bobby, please help me!” I looked behind me and no one was there and I immediately knew my guardian angel was talking to me. I stood up and looked up to the sky and yelled, ” I’ll help you guardian angel. Where are you?” The voice immediately responded, “Oh Bobby. Oh Bobby!” and faded away as if leaving the area. What wa unusual about the voice in the reponse was that I could feel the vibrations of the voice resonating in my chst and throat as when someone is embracing you and talking. I called out a couple more times saying, “I’ll help you guardian angel. Where are you?” but the voice was gone. I ran to the backyard where my brother Bill who was nine years old, had been earlier. I couldn’t see him so I yelled out his name excitedly repeatedly. He stuck his head out the partially opened garage door asking what was wrong and I asked him if his guardian angel ever talked to him. He gave me a strange look and asked what I was talking about. I told him that my teacher had told us ourguardian angels talked to us and mine had just talked to me out in the front driveway asking me to help her. Bill became angry and said,’You’re always asking about Mama and we don’t like talking about her. If you don’t stop asking about her, I’m going to run away and never come back.” I was terrified by the thought that the brother I shared a room with and looked up to would leave and never come back. I began to cry, begging him not to run away. He stomped off toward the neighbors yard looking back and said, “Don’t follow me or I will run away and never come back.” That night when we went to bed and the lights were out, I was quietly praying to God that Bill would not run away. I thought about what he had said and about the woman I had never known because my mother had died when I was fifteen months old and left my father with three girls and three boys to raise. Suddenly a ghostly voice came from across the dark blackness of the room calling, ” Bobbby…..Bobbby.” It was my brother Bill mockingly beaconing me. I told him to quit it or I would go tell on him. He stopped as I pulled the covers over my head silently questioned God about all these things coming down on my mind. Suddently Bill grabbed my arm and yelled, ” BOBBY!” I jumped up from under the covers screaming and crying all the way into my oldest sisters room. She asked what was wrong and all I could think to say was “Bill is scaring me and I’m afraid of dying.” It was probably the first time I had realized the death was imminent, real and one day I and all my family members would die and go away forever. It was at some point after these recollections in my This is You’re Life Robert P. from the Holy Spirit that I opened my eyes and the mediation ended. What became evident as the wisdom imparted from God was that the voice I had heard was that voice of my departed mother preventing me from harming myself on the lumber pile and with the golf clubs. I had gone to Bill asking about guardian angels and he jumped all over me about asking about our mother when I hadn”t mentioned her at all. That was because he was in the garage when I last heard and responded to the voice which pleaded for me to help her. My mother had a cedar chest that was tucked in the back of the garage. Bill had once told me never to go near it or open it. I didn’t know waht it was and i asked why. He told me it was mama’s and it had her things in it and he said Daddy told him we were not to mess with it. The day I told Bill about the voice and my guardian angel, he was in the garage and obviously was looking in the chest as years later he admitted he sometimes did. He was obviously upset in their and talking or thinking about me asking what mama was like and it was upsetting enough to her spirit to come to the front yard pleading that I could help stop the emotional pain and feeling of my siblings. When I told Bill about the voice, it must of really freaked him out knowing he has in Mama’s cedar chest thinking whatever it was that upset her. There was a day my best friend at nursery school who was talking about his mother one day and asked me what my mother was like. When I told him I din’t know because she had died when I was a baby and didn’t remember her, the look on his face was as if I had punched him in the stomach. he apologized and I told him it was alright because I didn’t have any sense of loss since I didn’t remember her. But he acted differently around me after that and it was then that I began to ask my brothers and sisters what our mother was like thinking if I knew then I could avoid another loss of friendship. I never asked about my mother after Bill threatened to run away if I asked about her and I never heard the voice again. I am not a nostic but I do think it’s ashame that a Catholic priest would attack my faith when I am gracious enough to share such a sacred experience as being in the presence of God’s insightful wisdom and presence. I guess one should not cast your pearls before dogs as well as swine. All things are possible with God, I didn’t know that makes one a nostic. But then you’re the expert.

    • Brad says:

      Brother, please read “Hungry Souls”, which will help you disavow that pagan concept of an earth-like life lingering on after death. Such a paradigm is obsolete and utterly cheapens what God has awaiting us. The soul is not still wayfaring after her body’s death.

      Wayfaring, as you know, is the state we are in while we are enfleshed, wherein our wills are mutable and we have the luxury of acting (“one’s work here on earth”) for the good of ourselves and for others. But after death if a soul is just hanging around earth, laudably doing good, that soul has effectively put off the particular judgment: impossible. The wayfaring, mutable state must end. The souls of the just are in heaven. Because they gaze at the Beatific Vision, they know about us, they care about us, but they are not disembodied among us, having somehow eluded the particular judgment and the destination resulting from that moment. The four last things are four last things. Sovereign Christ sends us to a place after the judgment and in none of those places are we still wayfaring or pretending to. The wayfaring state is a great luxury and it must end if reward or punishment must, in their turn, come. And they must. They must come in an orderly manner, i.e. the four last things, or Christ reigns over chaos.

      What I have expressed poorly is that you accuse Msgr. of deciding when a soul’s work here on earth is completed. You think Msgr. in his right mind would do so? Christ is Sovereign and Msgr. knows that. Msgr. also knows our dogmas. Christ decides when the soul’s “work” is completed. By the time of a man’s funeral, the judgment has already long taken place — the man has been judged and been definitively “put to rest”, to quote you. It is dogma — not doctrine — that all work ceases at death. If you claim otherwise you are denying dogma, which all Catholics are obliged to accept. Again, this is dogma, not doctrine. Here is a good primer: http://jloughnan.tripod.com/dogma.htm

      But one does not need a non-inspired, non-Magisterial book, such as “Hungry Souls”, however good it is, to understand that souls who have passed beyond their particular judgment are elsewhere, and none of those places are on earth to “remain” for any “periods of time”. St. Therese please help me, you who “spend your eternity doing good upon earth from — from — heaven.” How about Lazarus and the Rich Man?

      Sometimes God in His wisdom lets souls visit earth briefly and for a specific purpose (aww heck let’s remove the pretense that those souls can stay here or come here of their own volition — let’s more accurately say that God sends them through His power, doesn’t “let” them go where they will as if he allows them to exercise any locomotive power of their own, which they do not have). Our Blessed Mother comes for purposes. She does not hang around mimicking the wayfaring state. The reanimated saintly souls in Matthew 27 come for a prophetic purpose and then are quickly recalled by God. When human souls are sent to earth after their judgment, they are effectively messengers of God in the sense that angels are best translated as messengers: they are doing a very succinct service for God and are not accruing any merit for themselves in so doing. It is charming to convince ourselves that “There are spirits who remain for periods of time after death to look over ones they have departed from”, but no, God Himself pastures His sheep. He looks after the ones we have left behind, we do not do this. We who are so poor and have no power. Can we cause one flower to bloom while we live? One cloud to form? God asked these questions in Job 38. How much less once we have left this world. And yet once we have left this world, at least we then freely admit our total dependance upon God.

      I will stop because this has been poorly worded and long. Please forgive me. I only mean to express, with charity, that our wayfaring state, its potential for merit, through acts of charity, ends with death. This is dogma. God has arranged something unseen, new and wonderful for the just to enjoy after death. Let us bid them adieu (literally), for now, and allow them to do so. Ave Maria.

    • Hegelian Dialectic says:

      The Eastern rite offers Divine Liturgy on the 40th day after death because I’ve been made to understand there is a belief that the soul of the departed may still linger for that period of time.

  3. GaryM says:

    The dog is a great image of loyalty and devotion. Funny, we have more at stake than the dog by virtue of our eternal soul, yet, by our intellect we often rationalize ourselves out of this type of behavior.

    On a side note, the picture of the dog in Church reminds me of my dog “T-O” named by my mother after the Third Order of Saint Francis. “T-O” would squirm through the legs of the parishioners at doors of the Church and run excitedly onto the alter where my brother and/or I would be servicing as alter boys. He would jump all over us, tail wagging, and, other than us, it was impossible to catch him. The ushers made it even worse. The priest always held it together. My Mom would be humiliated. It was a regular event until Jim and I got the final ultimatum. T-O was quite the celebrity for awhile at Mass.

  4. Donna says:

    This brought a lump to my throat… dogs are such amazing creatures (although I know that’s not the point here!). This dog was obviously devoted to his master!

    This is a great illustration of loyalty and devotion, and we need to ask ourselves, “Does my life demonstrate this same (or greater) level of love and devotion to Jesus?” You have often stressed the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, and certainly it must include this level of love, loyalty and devotion.

    As always, thank you Monsignor! Have a wonderful day!

  5. Cece says:

    Msgr Pope, I have a question? Is there an exact moment during the mass where the Saints and the dead come around the altar? Can we pin point a T time?
    Thank you,
    Blessings

  6. Daniela Zurita says:

    It reminds me of the dog Hutchi :) the loyalty of this dogs… I have so much work to do be loyal to Our Lord Jesus.

    As you said it was the last place the dog experience his owner… how beautiful… I definitely need to learn from this dog because at Church during Mass, is the last place I experience Jesus, it is were Him and I are the closest… where are bodies become one when I consume His body , blood, soul and divinity… and yet I don’t make enough effort to be present every day at this Sacrifice…

    Thank you Msgr. Pope for sharing this…

    GOd bless you.

  7. Brad says:

    I think of Tobias’s little dog, no doubt giving him, if only through companionship, courage along his way, in the same way as of course wonderful St. Raphael was himself giving Tobias so much courage, praise God.

    Also Greyfriars Bobby.

  8. Will says:

    Good one Msgr

  9. RichardC says:

    I am vaguely familiar with The Sinner’s Guide by Venerable Louis of Grenada. Anyway, there are several similar stories of devotion involving dogs and horses and such in his book. I had been inclined to think those stories were mere fancy, but this post makes me think that some of them might be true. Neat post, Monsignor.

  10. Father Christopher Gerard Gillen says:

    A moving and touching story full of hope. Taking one last caring action for your loved ones and friends gives us a sense of closure. It affirms that in life you loved and cared for them; and in death you are offering a final tribute with a funeral. “Tommy” the dog knows this and returns to the last place he felt the presence of his master. I’m reminded of the words from Helen Keller: “What we have enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Thanks Tommy for this lesson.

  11. shepherdmaxx says:

    Monsignor,

    What a blessing! We in NJ are looking at “Death with dignity,” in the footsteps of Washington state and Oregon.

    If you don’t mind, I will forward your post, web address and the you tube address to each of my legislators. The ture dignity in death is often remembrance, reaching out to others, as the deceased would do and may not have received.

    I have heard it said to families and friends of deceased, “You have a big hole in your heart. it will grow smaller. It will never go away.”

  12. John Fisher says:

    No dogs in Church! Full stop!
    Dogs don’t have Faith…
    Ever heard of “Greyfriars Bobby?”
    No more corny dog stories. Got any stories about chickens?
    We live an a age where animals are “humanised” because fat self undulgent humans can’t make human friends!

    • Bernadette says:

      Dogs may not have faith, but they do have souls (though not like ours, with the rational will) -St Thomas Aquinas expounds this well. They are not human, but they do however have very powerful senses, more powerful than ours. There are many many accounts of animals sensing evil presences, (I can tell you some personal ones myself) many stories about them sensing God -like the story about the donkey in Adoration of the blessed sacrament and lots of other animal miracles. Animals can sense what we cannot. I would say that if ‘not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Heavenly Father noticing’ then an animal faithfully and quietly attending Mass, (providing they are not a distraction) is not wrong. Would that I were as loyal as my dog! And what about guide dogs?

    • George says:

      The funny past is that they do belong at mass. Animals were in Gods presents before humans were, in the garden of Eden. If one pays attention the garden IS Heaven, Gods home, and in the garden there are animals. Animals were never cast out of the garden, they never disobeyed The Father, beside the “serpent”, which was really closer to a dragon. So really yes, dogs DO belong in church, as long as they aren’t being disruptive. Animals were created by God. Why can’t his creation celebrate it’s creator? Why can’t they be in His presents the way that we, his creation, are in his presents?

  13. Suzanne says:

    Makes me think of St. Brosco’s dog. Was he sent by God to protect him?

  14. adl says:

    Robert
    I was touched by your story and felt I must share with you the following. My son was killed in the line of duty three years ago. I had prayed for him every day his whole life and more so after his death. One day at the Adoration Chapel I was praying the Stations of the Cross. I was simply praying in reparation to Our Lord. I was not thinking necessarily of my son. Suddenly I knew–knew, though I can’t explain how–that my son was standing to my right, beside me. He was there. I knew it. I hadn’t expected it, hadn’t thought of it, hadn’t prayed for it–it just simply happened. he was there. I hardly dared to move or breathe. I didn’t know how to react. In front of the second Station, for a few seconds, he was there. And then he was gone.

    I felt it was Our Lord’s gift to me, a grieving mother. Unsolicited compassion on His part. Your mother by God’s grace was allowed to come to you, her little boy, and protect you. I believe her asking you for help might have been for prayers for her but who knows. What I do know is that God graced you with a great gift of mercy.

  15. Miriam says:

    May i ask please,i want some one compitable who can answer my question and what does the catholic church says regarding this.Someone posted a picture on fb with a dog infront of the blessing sacrament as if it is adoring Jesus I also know that the dog did not happen to be there like the story of the dog in church but his master took him there or let him there as he took the picture and posted it.Does the church say some thing about this,can it be done?i believe if that dogs don’t have a soul like us they cannot pray maybe its copying its master,but we cannot say that animals pray or give grace whatever.I think we should be careful not to treat animals as if they can replace human beings sometimes we find our selves loving more our pets than our fellow men,well as long as they obey us and are friendly.I think its our love for our pets that elivate our measure of love not vice versa,what if it was a dangerous wild animal?thanks and I hope someone can answer me in truth .

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