Saint Francis of Assisi and His Sermon to Birds

Painting of Saint Francis of Assisi.

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The patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, built bonds of love with all of the kinds of creatures in the animal kingdom. However, Saint Francis had a special relationship with birds, who often followed him around and rested on his shoulders, arms, or hands as he prayed or walked around outside. Birds often symbolize spiritual freedom and growth, so some believers think that the miracle of the birds listening intently to Francis' message was sent by God to encourage Francis and his fellow monks to continue their work preaching the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, which focuses on how people can become spiritually free and grow closer to God. Here's the story of the famous bird sermon that Francis preached one day:

A Flock of Birds Gathers

As Francis and some companions were traveling through the Spoleto Valley in Italy, Francis noticed that a huge flock of birds had gathered in some trees beside a field. Francis noticed that the birds were watching him as if they were expecting something. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he decided to preach a sermon about God's love for them.

Francis Speaks to the Birds About God's Love

Francis walked over to a spot beside the trees and began an impromptu sermon, reported the monks who were traveling with Francis and wrote down what Francis said. Their report was later published in the ancient book The Little Flowers of St. Francis.

"My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky," Francis said, "you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in Noah's Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God."

The monks who recorded Francis' sermon to the birds wrote that the birds listened intently to everything Francis had to say:

"While Francis said these words, all those birds began to open their beaks, and stretch out their necks, and spread their wings, and bend their heads reverently toward the earth, and with acts and songs, they showed that the holy father [Francis] gave them great pleasure."

Francis Blesses the Birds

Francis "rejoiced" at the birds' response, the monks wrote, and

"wondered much at such a multitude of birds and at their beauty and at their attention and tameness, and he devoutly thanked God for them."

The birds remained attentively gathered around Francis, the story goes, until he blessed them and they flew away—some heading north, some south, some east, and some west—going out in all directions as if on their way to pass along the good news of God's love that they had just heard to other creatures.

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Your Citation
Hopler, Whitney. "Saint Francis of Assisi and His Sermon to Birds." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, Hopler, Whitney. (2020, August 27). Saint Francis of Assisi and His Sermon to Birds. Retrieved from Hopler, Whitney. "Saint Francis of Assisi and His Sermon to Birds." Learn Religions. (accessed March 25, 2023).