The Little Flowers of Saint Francis (after 1337) - 593 

to preach, and he first commanded the swallows to keep silent until he had finished preaching. And the swallows obeyed him. And he preached there with such fervor that in their devotion all the men and women of that town wanted to follow him and abandon the town. But Saint Francis did not allow them, saying, "Don't be in a hurry, and don't leave: I'll arrange what you must do for the salvation of your souls." And then he got the idea of starting the Third Order for the universal salvation of all. And thus he left them much consoled and well disposed towards penance, and he then departed and came to a place between Cannara and Bevagna. And as he was going along further in that same fervor he raised his eyes, and along the road he saw some trees in which there was an almost infinite multitude of birds. Saint Francis marvelled at this and said to his companions: "You wait for me here on the road, and I'll go and preach to my sisters the birds." He entered the field and he began to preach to the birds that were on the ground. And quickly the birds that were in the trees all came down to him and together remained still while Saint Francis finished preaching, and did not leave until he gave them his blessing. And, according to what Brother Masseo later told Brother James of Massa, as Saint Francis went among them, touching them with his tunic, not one of them moved. The substance of Saint Francis's sermon was this: "My sister birds, you owe much to God your Creator and you ought to praise Him always and everywhere because He has given you the freedom to fly everywhere, and has given you two and three layers of clothing. He preserved the seed of you all in the Ark of Noah so that your kind would not disappear. And you are also indebted to Him for the element of air that He assigned to you. Furthermore you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you, Lk 12:24 and gives you the rivers and springs for your drink; and He gives you the mountains and valleys as your refuge, the high trees to make your nests; and since you do not know how to spin or sew, He clothes you, you and your little ones. Therefore, your Creator loves you very much, since He gives you so many benefits. So beware, my sisters, of the sin of ingratitude and always strive to praise God." As Saint Francis was saying these words all those birds began to open their beaks, stretch their necks, open their wings, and reverently bend their heads to the ground, and with singing and movements showed that the holy father gave them great delight. And Saint Francis together with them was filled with joy and delight, and marveled greatly at such a multitude of birds and their beautiful variety, their attention and friendly manner. Therefore, he devoutly praised the Creator in them. Finally ending his sermon, Saint Francis made the sign of the Cross and gave them permission to leave. Then all




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 593