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The seraphic friar is surrounded with animals that are described in the saint's life: the birds to whom he preached, the rabbit who wouldn't leave him when he saved him from the snare, the ferocious wolf who ceased to terrorize the town at the saint's behest, and more.
Anyone who has had a pet or been around animals understands that not only does every animal have its own unique personality and intelligence, but that animals can be very responsive to the human beings around them. In the lives of the Saints we find this responsiveness can be brought to unimaginable levels in the presence of holy people. And the stories of Saint Francis and the animals are the perfect and most beloved examples of this. It is no wonder that the Seraphic Friar is known as the patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment.
Let's consider the animals included in Monastery Icons' image of Saint Francis and the Animals.
All ye birds of the air, bless the Lord
Saint Francis and his companions were making a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Saint Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties of doves, crows and others. Swept up in the moment, Saint Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke. But they didn't move.
Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He said to them: My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in the air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God's guidance and protection.
At this the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at the saint, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Saint Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.
Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Saint Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way.
Later, Saint Francis wondered aloud to his companions why he had never preached to birds before. And from that day on, he made it his habit to solicitously invoke all birds, all animals and reptiles to praise and love their Creator. And many times during his life there were remarkable events of Saint Francis speaking to the animals. There was even a time when he quieted a flock of noisy birds that were interrupting a religious ceremony! Much to the wonder of all present, the birds remained quiet until Francis' sermon was complete.
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