ST. FRANCIS, THE BIRDS AND THE BEASTS
 THE sweet Saints were not alone friends of God and friends of man; friends of the beasts they
also were, friends of everything that lived and suffered, and so it is small wonder that
the beasts, great and small, loved and understood them by whom they were so loved and
Countless stories are told of the good understanding existing between Saints and animals.
Chief perhaps among these great lovers is St Francis. No animal was too mean,
insignificant, or repulsive to be enfolded in his heart. All breathing creatures were his
Brothers and Sisters. With solicitude he removed Brother Worm from the path lest he should
be trodden under foot by some more unheeding passer by; not Brother Worm alone, or Sister
Grasshopper, but any insect or reptile was with care placed by him in safety against
destruction. The fishes, caught and gasping, he replaced in the sea to live and rejoice in
their freedom; a little rabbit, brought to him to furnish him with food, he released, and
when it would not leave him, but remained hidden in the folds of the skirt of his brown
woollen frock, feeling itself safer there than anywhere, he took Brother Leveret up in his
arms and held him until he could release him in the forest to sport unseen with his kin in
the undergrowth and brambles.
He was seldom to be found without a lamb as companion. Once, coming upon a young man who
was taking some doves to market, he stopped him, saying: "Oh, good young man, these are
the birds whom the
 Scriptures compare to those who are pure and faithful before God! Do not kill them, I
beseech thee, but rather give them to me!" The young man consented, and Francis returned
to his convent with his Sister Doves in his bosom. He made for them nests, and fed them
daily until they became so tame that they ate from his hand.
At one time, returning from Syria across the Venetian plain, hearing numberless birds
singing, he said to his companions: "our Sisters, the birds, are praising their Creator,
let us sing with them." And he began to sing the service, whereupon the birds sang but the
louder, drowning the human voices until St Francis addressed them "Be silent, my Sisters,
until we also have praised God!" They were then silent until he had finished his service,
and only resumed their song upon his granting them permission.
Another time, as he was preaching, swallows in process of building their nests twittered
so that he could not make himself heard. "You have talked enough, my Sisters," he said to
them; "it is now time that I should speak; let me have my turn, be silent, and listen to
the Word of God." And they immediately obeyed him.
But once a congregation of birds who sat about in the trees, shrubs, and on the grass, had
a little sermon quite to themselves, for St Francis addressing them spoke: "My Brother
Birds, greatly should ye praise your Creator who clothes you with feathers, and gives you
wings wherewith to fly, and a purer air to breathe, and who cares for you, who have so
little care for yourselves."
ST FRANCIS TENDING LEPERS
The birds having listened with heads bowed, and shining, attentive eyes bent upon him,
spread their wings, stretched their necks, and opened their beaks, chanting in chorus when
he had finished; then, as he
 left them, passing among them, even brushing them with the skirt of his robe, they
remained in their places, until he, making the sign of the Cross over them, dismissed
them, when they all flew away.
And then there was the wolf of Gubbio, a savage beast who was the dread and terror of the
countryside, for not only did he devour sheep and cattle, but children and men as well.
To this bloodthirsty creature St Francis, having gone in quest of him and found him in the
forest, thus addressed himself: "Brother Wolf, come hither."
The huge brute, probably to his own surprise, obeyed: "Brother Wolf, I command thee in the
Name of Christ, that thou do no evil to me nor to anyone more." St Francis went on to
chide him for being a murderer and a thief. "And I wish, Brother Wolf," he ended, "to make
peace between thee and all men; therefore torment them no more, and I promise thee they
shall pardon thee all thy past crimes, and neither men nor dogs shall molest thee."
In acknowledgment of this promise the wolf, raising his right front paw, offered it to
Francis in pledge of acceptance and good faith, then, like an obedient dog, followed him
to Gubbio, where in the market-place, surrounded by all the townsfolk, Francis stated
Brother Wolf's case, saying that he would make peace with them all, and never more steal,
or kill, if they in return would give him the necessary sustenance for existence.
With cries of delight the people consented. The wolf bowed his erstwhile savage head and
again gave his paw to seal the compact, and ever after, like any tame and friendly member
of the community, daily begged from door to door his needed food, nor ever again harmed
man or beast.