While walking in Hickville, OH yesterday, I saw this amazing carving in someone's front yard! I'm pretty sure it was carved out of an existing tree trunk (I may be wrong).
Saint Francis of Assisi (Giovanni Francesco Bernardone; born 1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was a friar and the founder of the Order of Friars Minor, more commonly known as the Franciscans. He is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment and Italy. The Catholic Church celebrates his Feast Day on October 4th.
Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis deal with his love for animals. Perhaps the most famous is recounted in the "Fioretti" ("Little Flowers"), a collection of legends and folklore that sprang up after the Saint's death. It is said that, one day, while Francis was traveling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds". The birds surrounded him, drawn by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. Francis spoke to them:
My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you... you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore... always seek to praise God.
Francis believed (as do I) that the world was created good and beautiful by God but suffers a need for redemption because of the sin of man. He preached to man and beast the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God (a common theme in the Psalms) and the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God's creation and as creatures ourselves.
Legend has it that St. Francis on his deathbed thanked his donkey for carrying and helping him throughout his life, and his donkey wept.