Today is the Commemoration of St. Nicholas, from whose legacy we derive the common legends about Santa Claus. It is also the "feast day" of our noble guard dog, Nicholas. Nick arrived at the monastery on 22 December 2002 to try his vocation. He has proved to be a worthy "security guard" and an even more worthy companion.
Many people say that animals teach us about God -- we shall leave it to the Franciscans to expound on that assertion. It does seem true, however, that animals teach us about ourselves. For early one morning, Nicholas decided to empty the trash -- piece by piece. Catching him in the act, sister firmly scolded him for this (in a gentle way, of course) and returned inside. Nicholas looked forlorn and -- if possible -- even a bit contrite. A few minutes later she came out with a broom to clean up the mess and along came Nicholas with a tennis ball in his mouth. If he could talk, he would have said, "HI SISTER! Listen. I know you're really, really, really upset with me right now, but I was thinking that maybe you'd want to play ball with me now."
Surely, anyone who owns a dog has had similar experiences. They do, indeed, teach us something about ourselves. How often do we reach out to someone who is angry with us? How often do we take the initiative to show good will and forgiveness -- even if we are in need of forgiveness ourselves? How often do we allow our own shortcomings and mistakes to keep us from persevering in our good resolutions? Whether we are fond of dogs or afraid of dogs, we can glean from their attitude what a difference it would make if we bipeds followed their example.