St. Francis’ Sermon to the Birds

From “The Little Flowers of St. Francis” by Raphael Brown
And a tribute to the birds by Ruth Vogel, S.F.O.

“My little bird sisters, you owe much to God your Creator, and you must always and everywhere praise Him, because He has given you freedom to fly anywhere—also He has given you a double and triple covering, and your colorful and pretty clothing, and your food is ready without your working for it, and your singing that was taught to you by the Creator, and your numbers that have been multiplied by the blessing of God—and because He preserved your species in Noah’s ark so that your race should not disappear from the earth. And you are also indebted to Him for the realm of the air which He assigned to you. Moreover, you neither sow nor reap, yet God nourishes you, and He gives you the rivers and springs to drink from. He gives you high mountains and hills, rocks and crags as refuges, and lofty trees in which to make your nests. And although you do not know how to spin or sew, God gives you and your little ones the clothing which you need. So the Creator loves you very much, since He gives you so many good things. Therefore, my little bird sisters, be careful not to be ungrateful, but strive always to praise God.”
Now at these words of St. Francis, all those birds began to open their beaks, stretch out their necks, spread their wings, and reverently bow their heads to the ground, showing by their movements and their songs that the words which St. Francis was saying gave them great pleasure. And when St. Francis noticed this, he likewise rejoiced greatly in spirit with them, and he marveled at such a great throng of birds and at their very beautiful variety and also at their attention and familiarity and affection. And therefore he devoutly praised the wonderful Creator in them and gently urged them to praise the Creator.
Finally, when he had finished preaching to them and urging them to praise God, St. Francis made the Sign of the Cross over all those birds and gave them permission to leave. Then all the birds rose up into the air simultaneously, and in the air they sang a wonderful song. And when they had finished singing, according to the form of the Cross which St. Francis had made over them, they separated in an orderly way and formed four groups. And each group rose high into the air and flew off in a different direction: one toward the east, and another toward the west, the third toward the south and the fourth toward the north. And each group sang marvelously as it flew away.
Thereby they signified that, just as St. Francis who was to bear the marks of Christ’s Cross—had preached to them and made die Sign of the Cross over them, so they had separated in the form of a cross and had flown away, singing, toward the four quarters of the world, thus suggesting that the preaching of the Cross of Christ, which had been renewed by St. Francis, was to be carried throughout the world by him and by his friars, who, like birds, possess nothing of their own in this world and commit themselves entirely to the Providence of God.
And so, they were called eagles by Christ when He said, “Wherever the body shall be, there the eagles will gather.” For the saints who place their hope in the Lord will take on wings like eagles and will fly up to the Lord and will not die for all eternity.
To the praise of Christ, Amen

We Are Glad We Are Birds
by Ruth Vogel, from her book “Reflections of a Secular Franciscan”

Yesterday, again, I saw a great congregation of birds— in community, down at the end of my street; dotting the cables and populating the trees.
How many? I wouldn’t know!
There they were, wing to wing, all chattering gaily; perhaps excited in their joy of being birds — no cares for the moment — comfortable and at ease — their musical little voices talking together in comradery fashion, innocent and guileless.
They were selfless, tiny feathered friends — serene — satisfied just to be what they are — wee small birds.
What else? Nothing else — contented with that — simple, humble creations of God, though they didn’t know even that; free to fly — free from worry — free from jealousies; free and secure under the protective umbrella of the love of Almighty God.
“We are birds,” they twittered joyously. “We are glad we are birds.”

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