St. Francis Animals: The Patron Saint’s Legacy in Wildlife Protection

St. Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni, renounced wealth to embrace poverty and preach to people and animals, founding the Franciscan Order.

Life and Teachings of St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

His life was a testament to his devotion to poverty and love for nature, which were integral to his teachings and the establishment of the Franciscan Order.

Early Life and Family

St. Francis was born around 1181 in Assisi, to Pietro di Bernardone, a wealthy cloth merchant, and his wife Pica.

Francis enjoyed a privileged upbringing and indulged in the pleasures of early youth.

His father’s wealth brought him into contact with the higher echelons of society, but his life took a turning point after a series of events that led to profound spiritual awakening.

Conversion and Devotion

After a period of imprisonment during a military expedition, Francis underwent a conversion experience that began his path to a devout Christian life.

He embraced poverty and renounced his family’s wealth, choosing instead to live among the poor and rebuild the Christian church, as he believed God commanded him in a vision.

Preaching to People and Animals

Francis is renowned for his connection to all of creation, particularly his sermons to animals, including the famous account where he preached to the birds in the Spoleto Valley.

He believed that nature and humans are part of God’s creation and should exist in harmony, a revolutionary idea at that time.

The Franciscan Order’s Foundation

In 1209, Francis founded the Franciscan Order, which was endorsed by Pope Gregory IX.

The order was based on the principles of poverty, humility, and the joy of the Gospel.

The Franciscans quickly grew and spread throughout Europe.

Not long after Francis’s death, he was canonized by the church, and the stigmata he received became iconic symbols reflecting his close imitation of Christ’s sufferings.

Legacy and Influence

St. Francis surrounded by various animals, birds perched on his shoulders, deer at his feet, and a wolf peacefully by his side

St. Francis of Assisi’s approach to the natural world and his example of simple living have profoundly shaped human perspectives on nature and our role within the environment.

Symbols and Celebrations

The legacy of Saint Francis is intricately linked with the natural world, serving as a symbol for the care and appreciation of all forms of life.

A significant manifestation of this is observed on October 4, recognized as the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Ecology.

This day is celebrated by many through the Blessing of the Animals, a ceremony that honors his devotion to creatures great and small, highlighting his message of harmony with all living things.

Stewardship of Nature

Saint Francis’s philosophy has inspired a stewardship model for engaging with nature.

His teachings encourage an ecologically responsible lifestyle, one that sees humanity as caretakers rather than exploiters.

Franciscan Orders, including the Poor Clares and the Third Order, have carried forward this ethos, often focusing on issues of ecology and sustainability. All Creatures of Our God and King, a hymn attributed to Saint Francis, encapsulates his view that all elements of the natural world form a singular, blessed community.

Cultural and Religious Impact

The cultural and religious impact of Saint Francis’s relationship with nature is evident in various art forms, stories such as St. Francis Preaches to the Birds, and the widespread custom of keeping pets, which are often considered part of the family.

The reverence for Saint Francis is not confined to Christian circles alone but extends to those who respect his life’s work, such as his engagement in peaceful dialogue with Sultan Al-Kamil.

After his death, the Church’s swift canonization of Saint Francis of Assisi marked the enduring recognition of his devotion and his influence on religious and ecological movements.