Friday, September 17, 2010

St. Francis and Animals

A second postcard arrived this week for the St. Francis Mail Art Project.  This collage is by Hal who lives in Florida.  There are a variety of different papers and color images used on the postcard that focuses on St. Francis' relationship and care for animals.

Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis deal with his love for animals.  Perhaps the most famous incident that illustrates the Saint's humility towards nature is recounted in the "Fioretti" ("Little Flowers"), a collection of legends and folklore that sprang up after the Saint's death.

Hal notes on the back of the postcard that St. Francis was a friend to many types of animal including the ones he noted: bunny, birds, donkey, and squirrel.  Below is a some information about each animal and its relationship to St. Francis of Assisi.


Once, when he was staying in the town of Greccio, a hare was caught in a trap and brought live to Francis by a brother. Seeing the hare, Francis was moved to pity and said, "Brother hare, come here. Why did you let yourself be fooled in this way?"

As soon as the hare was released by the brother, he dashed over to Francis and, without being forced to do so, settled into his lap as the safest place available. When he had rested there a while, Francis was stroking him with maternal affection, let him go so that he could return to the wild.

Each time he was placed on the ground, the hare ran back to Francis' lap. Finally Francis asked that the brothers carry him to a nearby forest. Something similar occurred with a rabbit on an island in the lake of Perugia.

The Swallows

One day Francis came to a town called Alviano. Ascending to where he could be seen by all, he asked for silence. The people became quiet and waited reverently, but a flock of swallows building nests in that place continued to chatter away, making it impossible for the people to hear. Francis spoke to them,
"My sisters the swallows, it's my turn to speak now, because you've already said enough. Listen to the word of God. Stay still and be quiet until it's over."
To the people's amazement, the little birds immediately stopped chattering and did not move until Francis had finished preaching. Those who witnessed this sign were filled with wonder and said, "Truly this man is holy and a friend of the Most High." Praising and blessing God, they devoutly hurried to touch his clothing.


It is said that, one day, while Francis was traveling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds". The birds surrounded him, drawn by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. Francis spoke to them:
My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you... you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore... always seek to praise God.

In the time of St Francis of Assisi he rode a donkey as a sign of his shedding of his wealth and the materialism that he was born into. Legend has it that St. Francis on his deathbed thanked his donkey for carrying and helping him throughout his life, and his donkey wept.

1 comment:

  1. This is very interesting. Thank you for posting the link.