Outside my back door is a very functional "wild birds unlimited" pole which holds four bird feeders: one a cylinder clear glass feeder my brother sent me, a sock full of thistle seed (finch feeder), a regular bird feeder with roof, and a large suet holder. This is not particularly beautiful apparatus but the crowds of birds and squirrels :( seem to love it! At the base is a statue of St. Francis--maybe two feet tall--with a large nick in the plaster of the bowl he is holding, that I purchased on clearance for a song --if you will excuse my reference. All this together does not particularly make one think of holy or sacred or even prayer, but for me it is a wonderful, regular reminder of St. Francis and the sermon (legend records) he preached to the birds.
I only say legend because many religious scholars who do not dispute the existence of Francis of Assisi do raise doubts about many of the stories associated with him. I for one have no problem with this "story." Every time I walk out my back door, I speak to the birds. "Good morning." "Thank you for coming to my home." "Wow, the Beewick returned." "Yes, yes, I know, time to fill up the feeders."It is a very natural conversation and I love the company of birds and I am not even close to being a saint as Francis was.
When I walk out my back door, I am full of wonder at whatever I see. I smile. I feel gratitude in my heart. I am in awe of God's creations. (Sometimes I still question the reason for squirrels--but only in passing.) In spite of the weather, the squirrels, the foot prints of my possum, or even the state of my gladiolas which still have not bloomed, my spirit takes on a very prayerful attitude. Silently and sometimes out loud, I praise God and say thank you. And if only for a moment in time, I feel a very special connection with God and his servant, Francis. And this is a very, very good thing.
post script: the following is an account of the "story" for those who are not familiar or want to remember....there are many versions and many accounts but I believe with this you will get an idea of what I have been talking about..
St. Francis Preaches to the Birds
Father Francis and his companions were making a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into air as he spoke. But they moved not.
Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He said to them: “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”
At this the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.
Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way.
Later, Francis wondered aloud to his companions why he had never preached to birds before. And from that day on, Francis made it his habit to solicitously invoke all birds, all animals and reptiles to praise and love their Creator. And many times during Francis’ life there were remarkable events of Francis speaking to the animals. There was even a time when St. Francis quieted a flock of noisy birds that were interrupting a religious ceremony! Much to the wonder of all present, the birds remained quiet until Francis’ sermon was complete.