What came first- the chickens or the blog?

St Francis and Pope Francis

on March 15, 2013

On Wednesday we were glued to the tv once the white smoke had come from the chimney of the Vatican announcing the new Pope. I find there is something compelling about watching historic events unfolding before you in your own home. What was even more interesting was that most of the huge crowd in St Peter’s Square appeared to be watching events unfold on their mobile phones as well as seeing it with their own eyes.
As well as being the first non European Pope in 1282 years Archbishop Bergoglio from Argentina is the first to chose the name of Francis as his title.
St Francis of Assisi, as legend has it once preached to the birds, “his little sisters”. He reminded them that they owed their Creator a song of praise for the liberty to fly and for feathers to clothe them and their offspring. They had been saved from the flood when two of every species of bird went in the ark with Noah, and though they didn’t sow or reap, they were well fed. Finally Francis told them –
He has given you fountains and rivers to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys in which to take refuge, and trees in which to build your nests; so that your Creator loves you much, having thus favoured you with such bounties. Beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praise to God.”
The legend tells us that as he spoke the birds opened their beaks, stretched their necks, spread their wings and bowed their heads towards him, and he responded devoutly by giving thanks to their Creator. After blessing them, the birds flew up above him making the sign of the cross and then scattered taking the gospel message worldwide.
From “The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi,” 1476

This is a painting of St Francis with the birds, as depicted by English artist Stanley Spencer. I love the big plump hens he has included, and their expressions!

This is a much older painting of the same story but also has hens! As an artist I think I would have been tempted to paint more exotic birds like parrots, penguins and peacocks, rather than the average chicken! Probably these birds weren’t acquainted with this medieval Italian cleric…
Pope Francis may have other more pressing issues to deal with than reminding birds to be thankful but he, like Pope Benedict before him, will be communicating with his human flock by regular tweeting!

I will leave you with the words of the prayer of St Francis. Whether you are a person of strong faith, or stumbling after God, or of no faith, the expression of love towards others, putting others first, loving one another amid difficult times and by being peacemakers who seek reconciliation and caring for creation reflects our interdependence with those with whom we share our beautiful planet.



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