Sermon to the Birds

My grandparents on my mother’s side were Polish. A good part of the Polish national identity involves the Roman Catholic Church, along with a penchant for pierogis, Polish sausage, and pride in being the creators of vodka.

My grandmother kept a picture in her house of Pope John Paul II and took every available opportunity to remind people of his Polish birth.  She also had a statue of St. Francis of Assisi in her house, which had a little bird perched on his shoulder

St. Francis was a 13th century Italian priest who famously eschewed a privileged life in order to preach and care for the poor. He is also the patron saint of birds and animals.

There’s a famous story about Francis struggling with his calling in life. In a moment of self-questioning and doubt, Francis asked himself: “Should he continue traveling as a public preacher or should he hang it up and retreat from the world to pursue a more private and contemplative life?” I’d venture to guess many of us in public service have considered “private” life a time or two.

Francis asked two of his close friends, Sylvester and Clare, to go about and discern what indeed his calling in life was. Their answer was exceedingly clear: “Francis should continue his public life as a preacher and advocate for the poor.” With a renewed sense of purpose, Francis left his friends immediately and came upon a gathering of birds. He proceeded to preach to them of the joy to be had in life and the thanks that we are to give for one another and our Creator. This speech came to be known as Francis’ “Sermon to the Birds.”

Friends, we have chosen a sometimes difficult path in serving our communities, but we have a lot to be thankful for. Let’s renew our joy in service this Thanksgiving.

(Article submitted by Gabe Reaume, Director of Community and Development Services, Dennison. If you have interesting news or helpful topics to share, please submit them to Kim Pendergraft at Please keep the information to fewer than 750 words.)