The patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, built bonds of love with all of kinds of creatures in the animal kingdom.
But Saint Francis had a special relationship with birds, who often followed him around and rested on his shoulders, arms, or hands as he prayed or walked around outside.
One day, as Francis and some companions were traveling through the Spoleto Valley in Italy, Francis noticed that a huge flock of birds had gathered in some trees beside a field, and he walked over to preach a sermon about God's love to them.
Here's the story of that famous sermon:
Francis told the birds: "My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky, you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise Him.
He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air.
You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season.
You and your kind were preserved in Noah's Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since He gives you gifts so abundantly.
So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God."
The people who witnessed Francis' sermon to the birds reported that the birds listened intently to everything Francis had to say and remained attentively gathered around Francis until he blessed them and they flew away.