As the summit of God’s creation, man reflects the divine image in a most excellent way. Essential to this divine image is our capacity for reason, which enables us to know God, the world, and ourselves. We are also endowed with the powers of freedom and imagination that allow us to reflect upon our experiences, choose a course of action, and thus become cooperators in the opus of creation. It might be said that we ourselves are co-creators with God, and are consequently privileged in our ability to take what God has created and make new things, which creation, on its own, could not produce. This privilege bestows on us a dignity that surpasses other creatures precisely because we can participate spiritually in God’s creativity in a manner that far exceeds the merely physical capabilities of other creatures. Furthermore, because the nature of human action is free and self-determining, these actions have moral value.
It follows, then, that with such capabilities, and by virtue of our dignity, God placed human beings in governance over his creation: "Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth" (Gen. 1:26). This dominion was specified as a command to "till and keep" the garden, and was first manifested in the naming of the animals (Gen. 2:15—20). Since naming something is to know that thing’s nature, we see the first manifestation of man’s rational nature. Moreover, by the command of the Lord to till and keep the garden, we can assume that man was commanded to use his rationality in the governance of creation for the sake of bringing forth fruit from the earth. As is evidenced by man’s original "nakedness," we can conclude that man’s dominion over creation was intended to provide us with the means for sustaining and enhancing our existence. This stands in stark contrast to the animals and plants for which God’s eternal law has provided physical attributes that sustain their existence. All of this occurred before the Fall, and it constitutes the originating Catholic vision of man’s place within the created order.