Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Sermon of St. Francis

Preaching to the Birds. by Giotto di Bondone, 1295-1300. Fresco. St. Francis, Upper Church, Assisi, Italy
Many of the stories that surround the life of St Francis deal with his love for animals. Perhaps the most famous incident that illustrates the Saint’s humility towards nature is recounted in the 'Fioretti' (The "Little Flowers"), a collection of legends and folk-lore that sprang up after the Saint’s death. It is said that one day while Francis was traveling with some companions they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds". The birds surrounded him, drawn by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away.
"The Sermon of St. Francis" is a poem written by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). It is part of his collection Birds of Passage. The poem relates the story of a man, Saint Francis, that tries to teach a flock of birds about the wonders of God. The birds flock to Saint Francis's parish every day to ask for food, and it is then that Saint Francis teaches them of these things. Although he does not believe that the birds understand him, Francis is able to bring himself peace by doing this.

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