By Sister Paula Kleine-Kracht

When we received the schedule for who would contribute what and when to this Ursuline “blog,” I was taken aback. I was the first contributor with topic “Christmas” due on December 15th. My first reaction was: “Write about Christmas on December 15th!”

Now don’t hear “Bah, humbug!” in my response. Rather writing about Christmas in mid-December is about my wanting to relish the Advent Season. I love the Advent Scriptures with their deep sense of hope, the promise of peace, and the portrayal of all creation living together in harmony. So my “blog” will tell of my 2017 Advent experience and reflections.

When I returned to live on the Ursuline campus in 2014, I took up regular early morning walking. This provided me the chance to meet and greet some of our neighbors who enjoy walking on our property. About nine months ago, one of the couples began walking a lovely white dog (I later learned it was part Labrador). Personally I am “neutral” about dogs – I don’t fear them but also have no real desire to own on. However, this dog was strikingly lovely with just the “right amount” of friendliness, so I had to ask about its background. The owner told me that after their previous dog died, they searched the Internet and found a website on which they could get a rescued dog. “Rescued,” means dogs that have been removed from situations where they were suffering from severe neglect and trauma. They saw their dog’s picture and read his story – roaming the streets of Turkey, infested with mange, completely neglected, and very fearful. The dog was originally from Germany where his first name was “Hans.” Then he was abandoned in Turkey, with a new Turkish name meaning “ash.” The rescue group worked hard to bring him back from his terrible state of neglect, but described the dog as “very sad.” Despite all these circumstances, the couple decided to adopt the dog and named him “Gabriel.” They felt he had to be a bit “angelic” to have survived all his experiences. (Are you starting to see how my story is related to Advent?)

As I have read and prayed over the Advent reading accounts of the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, my animal friend Gabriel and his life story have come to mind quite often. Gabriel’s wandering from Germany through Turkey to Louisville reminds me of the wandering Mary and Joseph looking for a place to give birth to a very special son, a Savior of all creation. I am reminded of the many refugees who are currently wandering through our world seeking safety and housing for themselves and their families. As my dog-friend, Gabriel, found a loving home where he is able to thrive, my Advent hope and prayer is for peaceful and loving acceptance of all the immigrants of our world. I am grateful for the position our city has taken on immigration issues and the many local organizations that help immigrants successfully settle in our city. As Gabriel the Archangel promised, all the poor and needy are special to God.

The last piece of my story about my dog-friend Gabriel came on December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I had commented to his owners that our evening celebration of the Feast Day was also the closing of our centennial year celebrating the dedication of our chapel. The gospel reading was that of the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary. I remarked that, of course, Gabriel, the dog, would come to my mind in a special way. When I came home that afternoon, I found a special scrolled gift – a picture of Gabriel with a promise that he would be celebrating with me. The picture sits on my desk and keeps me reminded of God’s hope and promise to bring all creation to fulfillment. I feel sure that fulfillment will include the Angel Gabriel and the animal Gabriel.