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Francis and His Legends

Rev. Nancy S. Taylor
Oct 4 2015

PART ONE Invitation to the Realm of Legend

This day, allow yourself to enter, to step inside the world of legend … a world of stories larger than life and sweeter, even than honey.

Once upon a time, in the misty and distant past there lived a man so special that legends attached to him like barnacles to a ship.

The man’s name: Francis…

Will you, with simple folk across time and around the world, enter into now the story-world of St Francis? Will you, dear ones, suspend reason, and smell the smells, gaze upon the sights, listen to the sounds. Will you thrill at the unusual and relish the joining of worlds?

PART TWO Francis preaches to the Birds

Francis and his companions are walking through a valley when Francis spots a great number of birds gathered together: birds of all varieties and sizes: doves, crows and song birds.

Francis greets the birds in his usual way (HELLO BIRDS!) expecting them to flit off into the air. But they move not.

Filled with awe, Francis asks the birds if they might stay awhile and listen to the Word of God.

My little sisters, the birds—Francis begins—much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and always ought ye to praise God, for God hath given you liberty to fly and God hath also given you dazzling raiment. Moreover God preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world. Still more are ye beholden to God for the element of the air which God hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests;”

As Francis preaches, the birds begin to spread their wings, stretch their necks, examine their own feathers in wonder and gaze upon each with new appreciation for each other’s feathers and talons, beaks and bills.

And the birds find themselves rejoicing and praising God as never before in their lives

Francis then gives the birds his blessing, making over them the sign of the cross. At that they fly off. Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, goes on his way.

PART THREE Francis and the Rabbit and the Fishes

One day a man brings to Francis a rabbit who has been caught in a trap. Francis advises that, in the future, the rabbit be more alert. He then releases the rabbit from the trap and sets it on the ground to go its way. But, instead of darting off, the rabbit hops up onto Francis’ lap, desiring to be close to the saint.

Francis lifts the rabbit and takes a few steps into the woods and sets it down. But the rabbit follows Francis back to his seat and hops back into his lap!

Finally Francis asks one of his fellow friars to take the rabbit far into the woods and let it go.That worked.

Fish were also known to obey Francis. Whenever a fish was caught and Francis was nearby, he would return the fish to the water, warning it not to be caught again.

On several occasions an assortment of fish lingered near Francis’ boat, listening to Francis preach, until he gave them permission to leave. Then they would swim off.

PART FOUR Francis and Brother Wolf

The most famous story concerns the time Francis tamed a wolf.

The story begins like this: A wolf is terrorizing the people of a small town. While Francis is staying in the town he learns of this wolf …So ravenous is it that not only does it kill and eat animals, but people, too.

The people took up arms and went after it, but those who encountered the wolf perished at its sharp teeth. The townspeople are terrified to leave the town.

Francis has pity on the people and decides to go out and meet the wolf to see what can be done. He is desperately warned by the people not to go, but he insists that God will take care of him.

A brave friar and several peasants accompany Francis outside the city gate. But soon the peasants lose heart and refuse to go farther.

Francis and his friar companion walk on. Suddenly the wolf appears.Jaws agape, the wolf is charging out of the woods, heading directly at Francis

Francis make the Sign of the Cross and the power of God causes the wolf to stop in its tracks, and to close its mouth.

Then Francis calls out to the creature: “Come to me, Brother Wolf. In the name of Christ, I order you not to hurt anyone.” Whereupon the wolf lowers his head and lies down at Francis’ feet, meek as a lamb.

Then, ever so patiently, without even a hint of judgment or anger, Francis explains to the wolf that he only wants to make peace between the wolf and the townspeople. “They will harm you no more, Brother Wolf, and you must no longer harm them. All past crimes are to be forgiven.”

The wolf shows its assent by nodding its head.

Then to the absolute surprise of the gathering crowd, Francis asks the wolf to make a pledge. Francis extends his hand to receive the pledge, so the wolf extends its front paw and places it into Francis’ hand. The pledge made and received, Francis then leads the wolf into town.

By the time they arrive in the town, everyone is there to witness the miracle.

On behalf of the wolf, Frances offers the townspeople peace. The townspeople, on their part, promise to feed the wolf, from now on.

Then Francis asked the wolf if he is willing live in peace under those terms.

The wolf nods his head in a way that convinces everyone he accepts the pact.

From that day on the people keep the pact and so too, does the wolf.

The wolf lives for years among the townspeople, going from door to door for food. The wolf hurts no one and no one hurts the wolf. Even the dogs do not bark at it.

When the wolf finally dies of old age, the townspeople are sad.

The wolf’s peaceful ways had been a living reminder to them of the wonders, patience, virtues and holiness of St. Francis.

It had been a living symbol of the power and providence of the living God.

PART FIVE Living into the Realm of Legend

Once upon a time, in the misty and distant past there lived a man, upon whom legends affixed themselves like barnacles to a ship… only these legends are more lovely and beautiful … and softer, more tender, than any barnacle

Today is that man’s day … today is St. Francis Day

It is a day set aside that we might strain with all our hearts and strength to look upon the earth and its creatures as did Francis.

It is a day set aside to look upon God’s earth and all its creatures as kith and kin ...and nothing less.