The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano - 234 

Chapter XXI
PREACHING TO THE BIRDS AND THE OBEDIENCE OF CREATURES

58 While many were joining Acts 2:41 the brothers, as already related, the blessed father Francis was travelling through the Spoleto valley. He reached a place near Bevagna, in which a great multitude of birds of different types gathered, including doves, crows, and others commonly called monaclae.a When Francis, the most blessed servant of God, saw them, he ran swiftly toward them, leaving his companions on the road. He was a man of great fervor, feeling much sweetness and tenderness even toward lesser, irrational creatures. When he was already very close, seeing that they awaited him, he greeted them in his usual way.b He was quite surprised, however, because the birds did not take flight, as they usually do. Filled with great joy, he humbly requested that they listen to the word of God.

Among many other things, he said to them: "My brother birds, you should greatly praise your Creator, and love Him always. He gave you feathers to wear, wings to fly, and whatever you need. God made you noble among His creatures and gave you a home in the purity of the air, so that, though you neither sow nor reap, Lk 12:24 He nevertheless protects and governs you without your least care." He himself, and those brothers who were with him, used to say that, at these words, the birds rejoiced in a wonderful way according to their nature. They stretched their necks, spread their wings, opened their beaks and looked at him. He passed through their midst, Lk 4:30 coming and going, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic. Then he blessed them, and having made the sign of the cross, gave them permission to fly off to another place. The blessed father, however, went with his companions along their way rejoicing and giving thanks to God, Whom all creatures revere by their devout confession.

He was already simple by grace, not by nature. After the birds had listened so reverently to the word of God, he began to accuse himself of negligence because he had not preached to them before. From that day on, he carefully exhorted all birds, all animals, all reptiles, and also insensible creatures, to praise and love the Creator, because daily, invoking the name Acts 22:16 of the Savior, he observed their obedience in his own experience.

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Vita Prima, Fontes Franciscani, p. 332-334


Caput XXI — De praedicatione avium et obedientia creaturarum.

581Interea dum, sicut dictum est, multi appositi sunt a ad fratres, beatissimus pater Franciscus iter faciebat per vallem Spoletanam. Qui ad locum quemdam applicuit prope Mevanium, in quo diversi generis congregata erat avium maxima multitudo, columbarum videlicet, cornicularum et aliarum quae vulgo monaclae vocantur.3Has cum vidisset beatissimus servus Dei Franciscus, quia homo maximi fervoris erat, magnum etiam circa inferiores et irrationabiles creaturas pietatis atque dulcedinis gerens affectum, alacriter cucurrit ad eas, in via sociis derelietis .4Cum autem satis prope iam esset, videns quod eum praestolarentur, ipsas more solito salutavit.5Sed admirans non modicum quomodo aves non surrexissent in fugam, uti facere solent, ingenti repletus gaudio, humiliter deprecatus est eas, ut verbum Dei deberent audire.

6Et inter plura quae locutus est eis haec quoque adiunxit: « Fratres mei, volucres, multum debetis laudare creatorem vestrum et ipsum diligere semper, qui dedit vobis plumas ad induendum, pennas ad volandum, et quidquid necesse fuit vobis7Nobiles vos fecit Deus inter creaturas suas et in puritate aeris vobis contulit mansionem, quoniam cum neque seminetis, neque metatis, ipse nihilominus sine omni vestra solficitudine vos protegit et gubernat ».8Ad haec aviculae illae, ut ipse dicebat et qui cum eo fuerant fratres, miro modo secundum naturam suam exsultantes, coeperunt extendere collum, protendere alas, aperire os et in illum respicere.9Ipse vero transiens per medium illarum ibat et revertebatur, cum tunica sua capita earum contingens et corpora. 10Benedixit denique ipsis et, signo crucis facto, licentiam tribuit ut ad locum alium transvolarent.11Beatus autem pater ibat cum sociis suis per viam suam gaudens, et gratias agebat Deo, quem omnes creaturae confessione supplici venerantur.

12Cum esset iam simplex gratia non natura, coepit se negligentiae incusare, quod olim non praedicaverit avibus, postquam audirent tanta cum reverentia verbum Dei.13Sicque factum est ut ab illo die cuncta volatilia, cuncta animalia cunctaque reptilia et etiam creaturas quae non sentiunt, ad laudem et amorem Creatoris sollicitus hortaretur, quoniam quotidie, invocato nomine Salvatoris, propria experientia ipsarum obedientiam cognoscebat.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 234

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