Posted by: davidlarkin | September 15, 2019

St. Francis and the Animals – Prayer for the Animals


Francis Of Assisi – Patron Saint of Animals – painting below by Giotto di Bondone (c.1266-1337)

St Francis and the Birds

Francis of Assisi, “born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco (1181/1182 – 3 October 1226),[2] was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon and preacher. He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history. Pope Gregory IX canonized Francis on 16 July 1228. Along with Saint Catherine of Siena, he was designated Patron saint of Italy. He later became associated with patronage of animals and the natural environment, and it became customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October. “ Francis of Assisi – Wikipedia

Stories are told of Francis preaching to animals. Who can say the stories are false? When I talk to birds, and I do, they usually fly away. Occasionally stare at me if I am far enough away. But I have never preached to birds.

Stories of Francis and animals were recorded by Thomas of Celano during the 12th-13th century. Here is an example of a Thomas of Celano story:

Francis was no stranger to walking great distances to share the Good news. One story tells us that Father Francis and his companions were making a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, 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 moved not.

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 thin, pure 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 Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.

It has been said that the brothers who journeyed with him stood in amazement.

Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way.

Later, Francis wondered aloud to his companions why he had never preached to birds before. And from that day on, Francis made it his habit to solicitously invoke all birds, all animals and reptiles to praise and love their Creator. And many times during Francis’ life there were remarkable events of Francis speaking to the animals.

From the Franciscan Spirit with a few more stories of Francis and the animals

Albert Schweitzer, OM (French Order of Merit) (1875 – 1965) was an Alsatian theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, and physician. It is difficult to chose highlights from his life with so many interests and achievements. He worked as a doctor in Africa. An accomplished organist, he had an organ specially made to use in the African bush country where he treated the poor as a medical doctor. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. I read his book, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus,” in the 70s. He was a lover of animals as the photo below reveals.

The following “Prayer for the Animals” is attributed to Albert Schweitzer. I read this to myself each evening.

Prayer for the Animals

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
especially for animals who are suffering;
for animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
for all wistful creatures in captivity that beat their wings against bars;
for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion
and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful.

Here is a photo of Dr. Albert Schweitzer in the African jungle and animals with whom he lived.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: