For the Birds

We spend a great deal of time taking care of our bird buddies. While we haven’t had much snow, the temperatures are frigid, so we keep the feeders full and the water warm.

There’s a new bird in town: a mockingbird. There may be two of them, but so far we’ve only see one at a time. He/she has a different way of eating the suet, standing on the squirrel baffle and pecking away.

Saint Francis of Assisi had a special relationship with birds, who often followed him around and rested on his shoulders, arms, or hands as he prayed or walked around outside.

The story is told that Francis and some others were traveling through the Spoleto Valley in Italy when the Saint saw a flock of birds that had gathered in some trees beside a field. As he watched them, they watched him and Francis felt that the birds were expecting something, not the food offerings that I give, but rather a sermon just for them. The monks who were with him wrote down what he said and published it in the book, The Little Flowers of St. Francis.

“My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky,” Francis said, “you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys 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 Noah’s Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God.”

The monks who recorded Francis’ sermon to the birds wrote that the birds listened intently to everything Francis had to say:

“While Francis said these words, all those birds began to open their beaks, and stretch out their necks, and spread their wings, and bend their heads reverently toward the earth, and with acts and songs, they showed that the holy father [Francis] gave them great pleasure.”

Francis “rejoiced” at the birds’ response, the monks wrote, and

“wondered much at such a multitude of birds and at their beauty and at their attention and tameness, and he devoutly thanked God for them.”

The birds remained attentively gathered around Francis, the story goes, until he blessed them and they flew away—some heading north, some south, some east, and some west—going out in all directions as if on their way to pass along the good news of God’s love that they had just heard to other creatures. (1)

Peace

(1) Hopler, Whitney. “Saint Francis of Assisi and His Sermon to Birds.” Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, learnreligions.com/saint-francis-assisi-sermon-to-birds-124321.

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