. . . The life of the Saint of Assisi was so beautiful a poem in itself, his soul was so lightsome with Divine light, that it is hard to select one jewel from amid such profusion; but surely his love for the brute creation was so remarkable that he stands at the head of the long list of saints who have protected and cared for the dumb creatures that are at the mercy of men.
The holy ones of earth have always shown this tenderness. St. Anthony preached to the fishes. . .St. John the Divine cared for a pet partridge; St. Anselm protected a little hunted hare from the sportsman's fury; St. Aventin out of pity put back into the water some fish which had been brought to him. Many other good hermits made friends of the birds. St. Waltheof would do penance for killing an insect; St. Philip Neri reproved a man for treading upon a lizzard (sic - curator); St. Bernard loved to free birds from the traps set for them; St. Francis de Sales wept with joy to see some doves share a meal with sparrows; and monastic institutions everywhere have always been a refuge for lost and homeless animals.
And so St. Francis of Assisi was not alone in caring for the humbler creatures of God. His gentleness toward them was something wonderful, and so great was his dread of hurting the helpless that he is said to have hesitated before placing his foot upon a stone! And those who love him and would be like him. even by walking in the tortuous and troubled ways in which all saints must tread, may do his work on earth. And a good way to set about it is to refrain from ill treating a dumb beast.
This is the simple and touching way in which he talked to the birds: "My little sisters, the birds, you owe much to God, your Creator, and ought to sing His praise at all times. . . . Beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to praise the Lord."
—Rev. Daniel E. Hudson, C. S. C, the Ave Maria Notre Dame, Indiana.
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Though I know the stories of St. Francis and have loved many paintings of his Sermon to the Birds, most of these other saints' tales were brand new to me. I would love to look into them. I found this tidbit in a goldmine of a periodical called Our Dumb Animals, published by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, volume 22 no. 4 (September 1889), p. 106. And I LOVE the spelling "lizzard."