Monasteries are never without guests or pilgrims, and Saint Meinrad Archabbey is no exception. Hospitality is a hallmark of Benedictine spirituality, as the Rule of St. Benedict states that "all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ."
Word of our hospitality has seemingly spread to the animal kingdom of late, as a number of species have come to us recently, apparently intending on extended stays. They include:
-- A lone squirrel who somehow found its way into the monastery courtyard, and can't find the way out. Perhaps it does not want to leave, desiring to live the life of a hermit. Each morning during the lectio period, he keeps the monks in the reading room company by peering through the window.
-- A lame pigeon also confined to the courtyard, who spends its days waddling about and squawking at Fr. Guerric whenever he comes by. God knows who started it.
-- A black cat with white paws (we call it Socks) who patrols the campus looking for attention and finding plenty of it from monks, guests, and students alike. Br. Zachary and Fr. Vincent are particularly sweet on it. I must confess also sneaking it a bowl of milk and a sweet roll now and again.
-- Two stray dogs--a beagle and a black terrier--sniffing around, perhaps looking for Socks. The other day, they galloped up to the abbot's office window to request an audience. Perhaps they were seeking entry. I don't think the abbot is too fond of dogs (but I am working on him).
-- A flock of wild turkeys. Perhaps they are seeking refuge here until after Thanksgiving. I'm not so sure they're completely safe. They'd better steer clear of Br. Angelo and Br. Flavian. Sometimes hospitality only goes so far.
-- In years past, we have had a couple of turtles in the monastery courtyard, but they have not been seen this summer. Must have transferred their stability.
This list, of course, does NOT include the critters who occasionally make their way uninvited into the basement level of the cloister where the juniors and novices live. These have included crickets (and worse), mice, lizards, bats, snakes, and even (once, years ago) a deer.
Understandably, these last guests do not receive as warm a welcome. Some critters have boundary issues. All are welcome, but it's also good to keep a respectable distance (excepting, of course, man's best friend, who is, after all, G-O-D spelled backwards).