Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Faithful Companion

our dog "Gus" posing for a snapshot 

Today I want to introduce you to one of our two dogs. His formal name is "Augustine," but we call him "Gus." (The other dog is Hildegard/Hildy, and I'm sure she would be highly incensed if she knew I was only talking about Gus).

Gus is normally by my side from morning until night. He sleeps at the bottom of the bed, and when I wake up in the morning I can always expect to see Gus staring in my face, giving me a morning "lick."  

Gus is very loving and affectionate (and also rather mischievous). He loves to cuddle up next to me whenever he can,  and he thinks he is a lap dog rather then a big Lab. Whenever I feel sad or anxious,  I can always count on Gus to put a smile on my face. He walks with me on the desert trails, swims in the pool, sits next to me in the meditation garden, watches TV with me...Yes Gus is a full-fledged member of my family. Gus walks right along next to me and my wife on our journey in life.

Several years ago, I was an assistant to the bishop back in Central New York. In this capacity, I would regularly visit and consult with various parishes and religious institutions in the Diocese.  Of all the many places I would visit, I particularly enjoyed my time with a group of Anglican nuns. 

I remember the very first time I came to their convent. I was there to lead a Sunday service in the convent chapel. As the service began, lo and behold a rather large and not too quiet dog lumbered into the church,  plopping himself down on a pillow designed just for him right next to the altar. 

No one seemed to "bat an eye," so I just continued on with the liturgy.

At first I was sort of disconcerted with all this. It seemed somewhat sacrilegious.  A dog at the altar attending Sunday Mass, lying on his own designated space near the altar? That was a "first" for me.

After the Mass was over, I asked one of the nuns about their dog and why he was so visibly present in church. I still remember her response, "He is our faithful companion - part of our family." She went on to tell me that the sisters saw a reflection of God in their canine companion -  loyal, always present, and loving without conditions.  So why wouldn't he be in church with them?

On this Sunday morning,  when I awoke to the traditional morning lick from Gus, I remembered those nuns and what they taught me about their faithful companion, so that's why I wanted you to meet Gus today. 

Yes, for me, Gus is a reflection of God - an ever-abiding faithful presence. 

Gus also teaches me something about the way I myself might act on my own life's journey. He teaches me to be be a "faithful companion" to those who walk the path of life with me. He teaches me to be loyal to my fellow travelers on the journey, to be an abiding presence for those walking on the way with me,  and above all, he teaches me something about loving others without conditions.

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