Of all the saints, St. Francis of Assisi stands out for his deep love for animals and nature. His day is celebrated on the 4th of October, and it's a time when people around the world remember his teachings of peace and kindness towards all creatures.
St Francis was born in the Italian city of Assisi in 1181. His father was a wealthy Silk merchant. He went against his parents’ wishes, gave up all his wealth, and became a travelling monk known as a friar.
In this episode, I will tell you about a few of the miracles of St Francis, including ones involving birds, a fish, and a wolf.
Read by Jana
Written for Storynory by Bertie
He was travelling near his home town, when he came across a large gathering of different birds. There were doves, rooks, and other species.
Seeing these birds, Francis, who had a deep affection for all creatures, felt an urge to approach them. He left his companions behind and ran towards the birds. The birds did not fly away, but waited for him, so he greeted them warmly. Filled with happiness at their unusual behavior, Francis spoke to them about God, reminding them of how blessed they were. He told them that they should always praise God for providing them with everything they needed, like feathers and wings. He admired how they lived freely in the air without any worries, trusting in God's care.
The birds, in their own way, responded with joy. They stretched their necks, spread their wings, and looked at Francis with curiosity. Francis walked among them, touching them gently, and after blessing them, he let them fly away.
He realised that he should have preached to the birds earlier since they were such attentive listeners. From that day, Francis made it a point to encourage all creatures, whether they were animals, birds, or even inanimate objects, to love and praise their Creator.
If he ever saw fish that had been caught, he would, if he could, release them back into the water, playfully warning them to be more careful next time.
Francis once sat in a boat by a port on the Lake when a fisherman caught a large fish known as a tench and kindly offered it to him. With joy, Francis took the fish, affectionately naming it "brother". Instead of keeping it, he gently placed the fish back into the water. As he began to pray, the tench stayed nearby, playfully swimming close to the boat. It didn't swim away until Francis finished his prayer and allowed it to leave.
St. Francis was in the city of Agobio when a fierce wolf began terrorising its inhabitants. It wasn't just attacking animals, but people too, causing everyone to be scared. Because of this wolf, the townspeople were afraid to even leave the city.
Feeling sorry for the townspeople, St. Francis decided to face the wolf, even though everyone warned him not to. As he approached the wolf, it charged at him with an open mouth. But St. Francis calmly made the sign of the cross and asked the wolf to come closer. Amazingly, the wolf closed its mouth, stopped running, and sat down peacefully at St. Francis' feet.
St. Francis spoke to the wolf, telling him he had done wrong by hurting God's creations and people. He offered to make a deal: if the wolf stopped harming anyone, the townspeople would provide food so the wolf wouldn't go hungry. The wolf signaled its agreement by nodding. St. Francis wanted a promise from the wolf, so he asked the wolf to give him its paw as a sign of loyalty, and the wolf did.
With the wolf beside him, St. Francis then walked into the city to finalize the peace agreement. The townspeople were amazed, and word quickly spread about the miracle.
After gathering the townspeople, St. Francis began to speak. He talked about how God sometimes allows hardships, like the wolf's attacks, because of humanity's sins. He emphasised that the real danger wasn't the wolf, but the eternal suffering of hell. He urged the people to turn back to God, repent for their sins, and be saved from both the immediate threat of the wolf and eternal damnation.
St. Francis then told the crowd that the wolf promised not to harm them or their animals. He asked the townspeople to promise in return to feed the wolf every day. Everyone agreed. To make sure the wolf would keep its side of the bargain, St. Francis asked it to confirm its promise in front of everyone. The wolf did so by kneeling and showing signs of submission. To emphasise the sincerity of the wolf's promise, St. Francis asked the wolf to pledge loyalty to him in public, which the wolf did by placing its paw in St. Francis's hand.
Witnessing this extraordinary event, the townspeople were filled with amazement and gratitude. They praised God for sending St. Francis to save them from the wolf.
The wolf lived peacefully among the people for the next two years, visiting houses without causing harm or fear. Even the local dogs didn't bark at it. The wolf became a gentle reminder of St. Francis's teachings and miracles. When the wolf eventually passed away from old age, the townspeople were sad because its presence always reminded them of the lessons and virtues of St. Francis.