Holy Menagerie!

We enjoy a country sort of life here in woodsy New Hampshire. This is mostly a good thing from my point of view, as the woods are chock-full of wildlife and I am something of an animal lover.

Well, when it comes to most animals, anyway. Not all of my encounters with the native species have been pleasant.

Take, for example, the afternoon a couple of weeks ago when, upon entering our bathroom, I found myself face to face with a garter snake. It was perched upon the toilet, its body entwined around the hinges of the lid. Bright serpentine eyes met mine as an inquisitive tongue was flicked in my direction.

Thank goodness, my children, a troop of budding naturalists, were intrigued by our visitor and eager to help with its relocation. I like to think that the dog was responsible for bringing the snake inside because I don't like to think that there is some secret passageway leading into our house enabling reptiles to come and go as they please.

We have larger creatures, too. For starters, there is our bear. I call him “our” bear because he visits our home nearly every night, hunting for garbage and raiding our store of chicken feed. At first, we supposed that raccoons were overturning the trash cans in our driveway, but then we discovered gouging claw marks on the lids and found that our heavy-duty cans had been crushed beneath the weight of some hefty creature.

Our suspicions were confirmed one recent day when the beast showed up shortly before dark. Standing upright, the bear was the height of a large man. His coarse black fur blended with the shadows of early evening. We watched breathlessly from the living-room window as he pawed his way through garbage cans, investigated our shed and then lumbered carelessly down the driveway in search of an easier meal.

Soon after putting the kids to bed on another evening, I was drawn to the front door by our dog's wild barking. I stepped outside to the sound of violent thrashing in the brush. I watched, astonished, as an enormous moose emerged, trudging through the greenery behind our chicken coop. Though the dog ran back and forth in front of him barking ferocious threats, Bullwinkle was unperturbed. He squinted in my direction and proceeded to graze on the apple trees.

I got the children out of their beds and they stood barefoot in the wet grass, watching as the awkward animal plodded through the foliage and munched the shrubbery. We chuckled at his dim-witted expression and marveled at his enormous antlers until at last he meandered back into the woods.

As I returned the children to their beds and washed dishes at the kitchen sink, the image of the enormous, antlered animal lingered in my mind. I wondered at the vast variety and breathtaking beauty of God's sentient creatures — the big ones and the small ones, the ones we welcome into our homes and the ones that show up uninvited.

Shades of Genesis 2:19 settled in with the night air as I reached for the dish towel. Right then a small black spider scurried along the counter beside me. Instead of shrieking and swatting, I observed silently as it made its way in earnest from the counter to the wall, scuttling on eight miniature legs. It scaled the wall, paused for just a moment and then disappeared into a crack near the ceiling.

“How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalm 104:24). Just so.

Danielle Bean writes from Center Harbor, New Hampshire. www.daniellebean.com

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

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Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.

Representing the Holy Spirit that descended “like a dove” and hovered over Jesus when he was baptized.

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