St. Francis and the Birds

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Imagine Saint Francis with a dove perched on his shoulder. Could you see him Kneeling with the Animals as he shares his supper? Saint Francis as a Bird Feeder makes perfect sense if you know about his miracles. I like to imagine Saint Francis with the Animals, a squirrel on his shoulder, a fawn standing beside him and flocks of birds perched on his outstretched arms. There are several stories about Saint Francis and his love for birds; here are three of my favorites:

Saint Francis and The Doves

Near the hills of Sienna, Saint Francis saw a boy coming into the market place with a small cage filled with doves. The boy had snared the birds and was planning to sell them.

With the childhood nursery rhymes ringing in your mind, 4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie, it isn’t too hard to imagine what fate might befall these small birds. Saint Francis dreaded the thought of it! And even if they were sold as pets, Saint Francis could not bear the idea of these gentle birds being locked in cages.

Saint Francis called to the boy, “please come!” When the boy was standing next to him, Saint Francis leaned in and almost whispered, “Young man, you know that the dove is a sweet and gentle bird, a symbol of faith and purity. Imagine what might become of these doves when you sell them. Do you really want them to be killed, cooked or even caged by some heartless man? Please, for your salvation as well as the salvation of these birds, please give those doves to me.”  

Without hesitation, the boy handed the cage to Saint Francis. He opened the cage. Very gently, Saint Francis held the dove, cooing softly and stroking its feathers, “Gentle sister, how could you allow yourself to be caught and caged? Please come with me and I will build a nest for you so you can raise your young and live in peace.”

In the friary, Saint Francis built nests for all the doves. They lived with the monks like tame pets, though they were always free to fly away whenever they wished. As for the boy, Saint Francis’ prophesy proved to be true, a few years later, the young man joined the order of Saint Francis and lived a holy and humble life dedicated to our Lord!

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When the statue of Saint Francis and the Doves graces your garden allow it to remind you of His love for even the humblest of creatures!  

Saint Francis and the Sermon of the Birds

In the early days of the order, as Saint Francis was still finding his way, he went to Rome to seek the blessings of the Pope, hoping his Holiness would ordain him and give holy orders for the Friar Minors, what eventually became the Order of Saint Francis.

There was always a large crowd waiting to see the Pope and one could wait several days without getting an audience.

One morning Saint Francis was filled with rapture and began preaching to the people who had gathered near. Others heard the divine wisdom, the joy in his voice; they leaned in to listen.

Saint Francis spread his arms like wings and a flock of birds landed there, larks, sparrows, doves, and owls. Though the assembling crowd spoke many languages, they all heard and understood, though Saint Francis spoke Italian, each of the listeners heard the sermon in their own language. Some say it was the birds, The Sermon of the Birds, for each bird repeated the words Saint Francis uttered, but each bird spoke in a different language so each listener could gain understanding in their own tongue.

Saint Francis and the Sermon for the Birds

Saint Francis of Assisi had a special place in his heart for all wild creatures. Sometimes he would gather the forest creatures and kneel among them offering bits of his meager supper. He especially loved the birds. In one of his most famous stories Saint Francis gave a sermon for the Birds. He gathered a flock of winged friends who flew in close so they could hear these words:

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“My sweet little sisters, oh, birds of the sky, you are bound unto heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wing and every note of your song praise Him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the liberty of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious morsels, streams and lakes to quench your thirst, hill and dale for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing, a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in the Ark of Noah. Clearly, Creator loves you most dearly, His gifts flow forth in abundance; so please be careful of the sin of thanklessness, and always sing out your praises for the Lord, our God!”

*These traditional stories are based on the medieval book, “Fioretti” or “The Little Flowers of Saint Francis” and is retold by Brian “Fox” Ellis, author and storyteller. © 2008 All rights reserved. www.foxtalesint.com