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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

Saint Francis' Compassion for Animals. By Dr. Chapman Chen

Updated: Jan 3

Summary: Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) the patron saint of animals had all-embracing love for every creature of God. He regarded them as sisters and brothers and rescued many of them. He communicated with them well, instructing them to praise God, to be at peace with humans, and even to help people. Reciprocally, animals like the holy man, listened to him, and would grieve to part with him. Whilst Francis might still think that the universe was created for humans' sake, and did not draw up vegan rules for his order (possibly to avoid persecution), it's uncertain if he did eat flesh. The story of the Holy Man rebuking Brother Juniper, not for cutting away a pig's foot but for damaging the property of the pig owner, comes from a unreliable source.

1. Who's Saint Francis of Assisi

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (1181 – 1226), known as Francis of Assisi was an Italian mystic and Catholci friar who founded the religious order of the Franciscans. Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on 16 July 1228, and declared the Patron Saint of Ecologists by Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Francis is associated with patronage of animals and the environment. It became customary for churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of the fourth of October. Along with Catherine of Siena, he was designated patron saint of Italy. San Francisco in California, United States, is named after him. He is commonly portrayed wearing a brown habit with a rope tied around his waist, featuring three knots that symbolize the three Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

2. All Embracing Love for Every Creature

Francis sermonized the Christian doctrine that the world was created good and graceful by the Lord but suffers a need for redemption due to human sin. As someone who perceived God reflected in nature, "St. Francis was a great lover of God's creation" (Warner 2010).

According to Bonaventure (1904: 8.1), Saint Francis' heart was filled with "that true godliness which.... is profitable unto all things", "compassion", and " all-embracing love for every creature", by which "he was touched with kindly feeling for all things." Indeed, "it was this piety that.... set forth a new picture of man's estate before the Fall."

Saint Francis was on the right track, because "God is love" (1 John 4:8 KJV) and Christ is compassion (Mark 6:34); God loves the world (John 3:16); "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made" (Psalm 145: 9); God knows "what they are suffering" (Exodus 3:7) ; and in all their affliction He was afflicted" (Isaiah 63:9 KJV).

3. Animals as Sisters and Brothers

Regarding animals as fellow-creatures or folk, Saint Francis intimately called them sisters and brothers. According to Bonaventure (1904: 8.6), "When he bethought him of the first beginning of all things, he was filled with a yet more overflowing charity, and would call the dumb animals, howsoever small, by the names of brother and sister, forasmuch as he recognised in them the same origin as in himself."

Animals really are our sisters and brothers by reason of the commonality of possessing a living soul, the shared ability to suffer, and their physical proximity to us. In the first creation story, God gave not only humanity (Genesis 2:7) but also every non-human animal a living soul:-

"And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so." (Genesis 1:30)

Hebrew for the phrase "life" in the verse above is "nephesh chayyah", which is mistranslated as "life" in most English versions of the Bible. However, in reality, nephesh means soul and chayyah means living. In other words, God did give the animals a living soul when He created them.

By reason of this commonality of possessing a living soul the animals are also our brothers and sisters to be loved by us (Farians 2009).

4. Animal Life Release and Rescue

Saint Francis would buy animals and release them back to nature (Bonaventure 1904:8.6), as shown, for instance, in the quotation below. Many people (probably including hunters, farm owners, fishers, etc.) would also present him with animals for him to set free, e.g. lamb, leveret, water-fowl, fish, pheasant (Bonaventure 1904:8.6-11).

"Ofttimes he would buy back lambs that were being taken to be killed, in remembrance of that most gentle Lamb Who brooked to be brought unto the slaughter for the redemption of sinners." (Bonaventure 1904:8.6)

Saint Francis also performed miracles to save animals. For example:-

A certain man, named Martin, had led his cattle to pasture far from the town where he dwelt, when one of the oxen had its leg so badly broken by a fall as that there seemed no use in thinking of any remedy for it. Being anxious to strip off the hide, and having no implement wherewith he might do so, he returned home, entrusting the care of his ox unto the Blessed Francis, and committing it confidently unto the sure protection of the Saint, that it might not be eaten of wolves before his return. Returning when it was fully day unto the ox that he had left in the woods, and bringing the butcher with him, he found it feeding, and so perfectly sound that he tried in vain to distinguish the broken leg from the other. (Bonaventure 1904:10.3)

5. Communication with Animals

Saint Francis was able to communicate with animals well, instructing them to praise God, to be at peace with people, and even to help them.

5.1. Praising the Creator Alternately with Birds

For example, Saint Francis was able to instruct a host of singing birds so that they and Francis's praying team praised the Lord in turn without interfering with each other.

On another time, when he was walking with a certain Brother through the Venetian marshes, he chanced on a great host of birds that were sitting and singing among the bushes. Seeing them, he said unto his companion: “Our sisters the birds are praising their Creator, let us too go among them and sing unto the Lord praises and the canonical Hours.” When they had gone into their midst, the birds stirred not from the spot, and when, by reason of their twittering, they could not hear each the other in reciting the Hours, the holy man turned unto the birds, saying: “My sisters the birds, cease from singing, while that we render our due praises unto the Lord.” Then the birds forthwith held their peace, and remained silent until, having said his Hours at leisure and rendered his praises, the holy man of God again gave them leave to sing. And, as the man of God gave them leave, they at once took up their song again after their wonted fashion. (Bonaventure 1904:8.9)

5.2. A Peace Deal with Wolves

While sojourning in the hermitage of Greccio, Saint Francis successfully dissuaded a herd of ravening wolves from attacking the villagers there:-

At one time while he was sojourning in the hermitage of Greccio, the natives of that place were plagued by manifold evils. For an herd of ravening wolves was devouring not beasts alone, but men also, and every year a hailstorm laid waste their corn and vineyards. Accordingly, when the herald of the Holy Gospel was preaching unto them under these afflictions, he said: “I promise you,—pledging the honour and glory of Almighty God,—that all this plague shall depart from you, and that the Lord will look upon you, and multiply your temporal goods if only, believing me, ye will take pity on your own selves, and will first make true confession, then bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. But again, I declare unto you that if, unthankful for His benefits, ye shall turn again unto your vomit, the plague will be renewed, the punishment will be redoubled, and greater wrath will be shewn upon you.” Then from that very hour, they turned at his admonition unto repentance, and the disasters ceased, the perils passed over, nor was aught of havoc wrought by wolves or hailstorms. Nay more, what is yet more marvellous, if a hailstorm ever fell upon their neighbours’ lands, as it neared their borders it was there stayed, or changed its course unto some other region. The hail observed, yea, and the wolves observed, the pact made with the servant of God, nor did they essay any more to break the law of natural piety by raging against men that had turned unto piety, so long as men in their turn, according unto the agreement, did not act wickedly against the most holy laws of God.

With holy affection, then, must we think on the holiness of this blessed man, that was of such wondrous sweetness and might as that it conquered wild beasts, tamed woodland creatures, and taught tame ones, and inclined the nature of the brutes, that had revolted from fallen man, to obey him. For of a truth it is this piety which, allying all creatures unto itself, is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.(Bonaventure 1904:8.11)

A slightly modified account can be found in Chapter XXI of Hudleston's (1926) The Little Flowers of Saint Francis:-

At the time when St Francis was living in the city of Gubbio, a large wolf appeared in the neighbourhood, so terrible and so fierce, that he not only devoured other animals, but made a prey of men also; and since he often approached the town, all the people were in great alarm, and used to go about armed, as if going to battle. Notwithstanding these precautions, if any of the inhabitants ever met him alone, he was sure to be devoured, as all defence was useless: and, through fear of the wolf, they dared not go beyond the city walls.

St Francis, feeling great compassion for the people of Gubbio, resolved to go and meet the wolf, though all advised him not to do so. Making the sign of the holy cross, and putting all his confidence in God, he went forth from the city, taking his brethren with him; but these fearing to go any further, St Francis bent his steps alone toward the spot where the wolf was known to be, while many people followed at a distance, and witnessed the miracle.

The wolf, seeing all this multitude, ran towards St Francis with his jaws wide open. As he approached, the saint, making the sign of the cross, cried out: "Come hither, brother wolf; I command thee, in the name of Christ, neither to harm me nor anybody else."

Marvellous to tell, no sooner had St Francis made the sign of the cross, than the terrible wolf, closing his jaws, stopped running, and coming up to St Francis, lay down at his feet as meekly as a lamb. And the saint thus addressed him: "Brother wolf, thou hast done much evil in this land, destroying and killing the creatures of God without his permission; yea, not animals only hast thou destroyed, but thou hast even dared to devour men, made after the image of God; for which thing thou art worthy of being hanged like a robber and a murderer. All men cry out against thee, the dogs pursue thee, and all the inhabitants of this city are thy enemies; but I will make peace between them and thee, O brother wolf, is so be thou no more offend them, and they shall forgive thee all thy past offences, and neither men nor dogs shall pursue thee any more."

Having listened to these words, the wolf bowed his head, and, by the movements of his body, his tail, and his eyes, made signs that he agreed to what St Francis said. On this St Francis added: "As thou art willing to make this peace, I promise thee that thou shalt be fed every day by the inhabitants of this land so long as thou shalt live among them; thou shalt no longer suffer hunger, as it is hunger which has made thee do so much evil; but if I obtain all this for thee, thou must promise, on thy side, never again to attack any animal or any human being; dost thou make this promise?"

Then the wolf, bowing his head, made a sign that he consented. Said St Francis again: "Brother wolf, wilt thou pledge thy faith that I may trust to this thy promise?" and putting out his hand he received the pledge of the wolf; for the latter lifted up his paw and placed it familiarly in the hand of St Francis, giving him thereby the only pledge which was in his power. Then said St Francis, addressing him again: "Brother wolf, I command thee, in the name of Christ, to follow me immediately, without hesitation or doubting, that we may go together to ratify this peace which we have concluded in the name of God"; and the wolf, obeying him, walked by his side as meekly as a lamb, to the great astonishment of all the people.

Now, the news of this most wonderful miracle spreading quickly through the town, all the inhabitants, both men and women, small and great, young and old, flocked to the market-place to see St Francis and the wolf. All the people being assembled, the saint got up to preach, saying, amongst other things, how for our sins God permits such calamities, and how much greater and more dangerous are the flames of hell, which last for ever, than the rage of a wolf, which can kill the body only; and how much we ought to dread the jaws of hell, if the jaws of so small an animal as a wolf can make a whole city tremble through fear. The sermon being ended, St Francis added these words: "Listen my brethren: the wolf who is here before you has promised and pledged his faith that he consents to make peace with you all, and no more to offend you in aught, and you must promise to give him each day his necessary food; to which, if you consent, I promise in his name that he will most faithfully observe the compact."

Then all the people promised with one voice to feed the wolf to the end of his days; and St Francis, addressing the latter, said again: "And thou, brother wolf, dost thou promise to keep the compact, and never again to offend either man or beast, or any other creature?" And the wolf knelt down, bowing his head, and, by the motions of his tail and of his ears, endeavoured to show that he was willing, so far s was in his power, to hold to the compact.

Then St Francis continued: "Brother wolf, as thou gavest me a pledge of this thy promise when we were outside the town, so now I will that thou renew it in the sight of all this people, and assure me that I have done well to promise in thy name"; and the wolf lifting up his paw placed it in the hand of St Francis.

Now this event caused great joy in all the people, and a great devotion towards St Francis, both because of the novelty of the miracle, and because of the peace which had been concluded with the wolf; and they lifted up their voices to heaven, praising and blessing God, who had sent them St Francis, through whose merits they had been delivered from such a savage beast.

The wolf lived two years at Gubbio; he went familiarly from door to door without harming anyone, and all the people received him courteously, feeding him with great pleasure, and no dog barked at him as he went about. At last, after two years, he died of old age, and the people of Gubbio mourned his loss greatly; for when they saw him going about so gently amongst them all, he reminded them of the virtue and sanctity of St Francis.

5.3. A Lamb Butting a Lady into Church

A lamb entrusted by Francis unto a noble lady actually escorted her to and fro church:-

At one time he had with him in Rome a lamb, by reason of his reverence for that Lamb most gentle, and it he entrusted unto a noble matron, to wit, the lady Jacoba di Settesoli, to be cared for in her bower (chamber). This lamb, like one instructed in spiritual things by the Saint, when the lady went into church, kept closely by her side in going and in returning. If in the early morning the lady delayed her rising, the lamb would rise and would butt her with its little horns, and rouse her by its bleatings, admonishing her with gestures and nods to hasten into church. Wherefore the lamb, that had been a pupil of Francis, and was now become a teacher of devotion, was cherished by the lady as a creature marvellous and loveworthy. (Bonaventure: 1904:8.7)

Reciprocally, animals like the holy man, listened to him, and would grieve to part with him.

6. Animals Liked the Holy Brother

Animals in general, including birds, lambs, rabbits, insects, etc., were fond of the Holy Man.

6.1 Birds Rejoicing at Saint Francis' Comings

When he had come unto the solitudes of Alverna, to keep a Lent in honour of the Archangel Michael, birds of divers sort fluttered about his cell and seemed by their tuneful chorus and joyous movements to rejoice at his comings and to invite and entice the holy Father to tarry there. Seeing this, he said unto his companion: “I perceive, Brother, that it is in accord with the divine will that we should abide here for a space, so greatly do our sisters the little birds seem to take comfort in our presence.” (Bonaventure: 1904:8.10)

6.2. A Falcon as an Alarm Clock of the Saint

While... he was sojourning in that place [Alverna], a falcon that had its nest there bound itself by close ties of friendship unto him. For always at that hour of night wherein the holy man was wont to rise for the divine office, the falcon was beforehand with its song and cries. And this was most acceptable unto the servant of God, the more so as that the great concern which the bird shewed for him shook from him all drowsiness of sloth. But when the servant of Christ was weighed down beyond his wont by infirmity, the falcon would spare him, and would not mark for him so early an awakening. At such times, as though taught of God, he would about dawn strike the bell of his voice with a light touch. Verily, there would seem to have been a divine omen, alike in the gladness of the birds of myriad species, and in the cries of the falcon, inasmuch as that praiser and worshipper of God, upborne on the wings of contemplation, was at that very place and time to be exalted by the vision of the Seraph (six-winged angel). (Bonaventure: 1904:8.10)

7. Animals Listened to St Francis

Animals in general complied with the Holy Man's instructions, for example:-

7.1. A Christ-revering Lamb

At another time, at Saint Mary of the Little Portion, a lamb was brought unto the man of God, the which he thankfully received, by reason of the love of guilelessness and simplicity that the lamb’s nature doth exhibit. The holy man exhorted the lamb that it should be instant in the divine praises, and avoid any occasion of offence unto the Brethren; the lamb, on its part, as though it had observed the piety of the man of God, diligently obeyed his instructions. For when it heard the Brethren chanting in the choir, it too would enter the church, and, unbidden of any, would bend the knee, bleating before the altar of the Virgin Mother of the Lamb, as though it were fain to greet her. Furthermore, at the election of the most holy Body of Christ in the solemn Mass, it would bend its knees and bow, even as though the sheep, in its reverence, would reprove the irreverence of the undevout, and would incite Christ’s devout people to revere the Sacrament. (Bonaventure: 1904:8.7)

7.2. A Cicada Praised the Lord for Eight Days at the Saint's Call

At Saint Mary of the Little Portion, hard by the cell of the man of God, a cicada蟬 sat on a fig-tree and chirped; and right often by her song she stirred up unto the divine praises the servant of the Lord, who had learnt to marvel at the glorious handiwork of the Creator even as seen in little things. One day he called her, and she, as though divinely taught, lighted upon his hand. When he said unto her: “Sing, my sister cicada, and praise the Lord thy Creator with thy glad lay,” she obeyed forthwith, and began to chirp, nor did she cease until, at the Father’s bidding, she flew back unto her own place. There for eight days she abode, on any day coming at his call, singing, and flying back, according as he bade her. At length the man of God said unto his companions: “Let us now give our sister cicada leave to go, for she hath gladdened us enough with her lay, stirring us up these eight days past unto the praises of God.” And at once, his leave given, she flew away, nor was ever seen there again, as though she dared not in any wise transgress his command. (Bonaventure: 1904:8.9)

8. Animals were Reluctant to Part with Saint Francis

8.1. Sheep Running towards the Saint

While he was journeying nigh the city of Siena, he came on a great flock of sheep in the pastures. And when he had given them gracious greeting, as was his wont (habit), they left their feeding, and all ran toward him, raising their heads, and gazing fixedly on him with their eyes. So eagerly did they acclaim him as that both the shepherds and the Brethren marvelled, beholding around him the lambs, and the rams no less, thus wondrously filled with delight. (Bonaventure: 1904:8.7)

8.2. A Little Rabbit Returning unto the Father's Bosom

At another time, at Greccio, a live leveret (little rabbit) was brought unto the man of God, the which,—when set down free on the ground that it might escape whither it would,—at the call of the kindly Father leapt with flying feet into his bosom. He, fondling it in the instinctive tenderness of his heart, seemed to feel for it as a mother, and, bidding it in gentle tones beware of being recaptured, let it go free. But albeit it was set on the ground many times to escape, it did always return unto the Father’s bosom, as though by some hidden sense it perceived the tenderness of his heart; wherefore at length, by his command, the Brethren carried it away unto a safer and more remote spot.

In like manner, on an island of the lake of Perugia, a rabbit was caught and brought unto the man of God, and, albeit it fled from others, it entrusted itself unto his hands and bosom with the confidence of a tame creature. (Bonaventure: 1904:8.8)

8.3. A Fowl wouldn't Leave St. Francis

As he was hastening by the lake of Rieti unto the hermitage of Greccio, a fisherman out of devotion brought unto him a water-fowl (duck), the which he gladly received, and then, opening his hands, bade it depart; howbeit, it would not leave him. Then he, lifting his eyes unto heaven, remained for a long space in prayer, and, after a long hour returning unto himself as though from afar, gently bade the little bird depart, and praise the Lord. Then, having thus received his blessing and leave, it flew away, shewing joy by the movement of its body. (Bonaventure: 1904:8.8)

8.4. A Live Fish Freed by the Saint

In like manner, from the same lake there was brought unto him a fine, live fish, which he called, as was his wont, by the name of brother, and put back into the water nigh the boat. Then the fish played in the water nigh the man of God, and, as though drawn by love of him, would in no wise leave the boatside until it had received his blessing and leave. (Bonaventure: 1904:8.8)

9. The Anthropocentrism of Saint Francis' Love for All Creatures

Judging from his "The Canticle of the Creatures", it was not only sentient creatures, but also the sun, the moon, wind, fire, etc., whom Saint Francis called his sisters and brothers. As noted by Peter Singer (2015:288), "his love for all creatures could coexist with" an anthropocentric or speciesist position. For example, Francis wrote that "Every creature proclaims: 'God made me for your sake O man!' " (Francis, 1959). "The sun itself, he thought, shines for man," to borrow the words of Singer (2015:288) again.

10. The Problem with Loving Sentient and Non-Sentient Creatures Indiscriminately

According to Peter Singer (2015:288), whilst this sort of elated universal affection could be a fantastic spring of empathy and kindness, "if we love rocks, trees, plants, larks, and oxen equally, we may lose sight of....the differences in degree of sentience. We may then think that since we have to eat to survive, and since we cannot eat without killing something we love, it does not matter which we kill."

11. St Francis Failed to Instruct his Order to Go Vegan?

Peter Singer (2015:289) asserts that maybe because of his indiscriminate love for sentient and non-sentient beings, Saint Francis did not cease eating birds and oxen for whom he had proclaimed love; and "when he drew up the rules for the conduct of the friars in the order he founded, he gave no instruction that they were to abstain from meat, except on certain fast days."

However, there is no definitive answer to whether Saint Francis of Assisi was a vegetarian or not, as different sources may have different interpretations of his life and teachings. And during the medieval times, vegans in Europe had to keep a very low profile lest that they would be labelled heretics, tortured and burnt alive by the church authorities. For example, according to the historian Norman Cohn (1993), the Cathars, a Christian sect that rejected the authority and doctrines of the Catholic Church, were persecuted by the Albigensian Crusade in the 13th century. And according to the historian James A. Brundage (2003), the Waldensians, a Christian sect that criticized the corruption and wealth of the Catholic Church, were persecuted by the Inquisition in the 13th and 14th centuries.

12. St. Francis was Indifferent to the Sufferings of a Maimed Pig?

Peter Singer does not only claim that Saint Francis was non-vegan but also mentions "one episode in which a disciple is said to have cut a trotter off a living pig in order to give it to a sick companion. According to the narrator, Francis rebuked the disciple - but for damaging the property of the pig owner, not for cruelty to the pig!" (Singer 1985:2).

I have found that the episode concerned comes from The Little Flowers of St. Francis (Fioretti di San Francesco), a fictional account of the life of St. Francis of Assisi and his companion Brother Juniper, written by an anonymous author in the 14th century. It is a collection of legends and anecdotes which often contain exaggerations, embellishments, and inaccuracies. The story in question is not based on any factual evidence, but rather on the imagination and creativity of the author, who wanted to entertain and edify his readers. Therefore, the story is not reliable as a historical account of St. Francis of Assisi's attitude towards animals, but rather as a literary expression of the medieval Franciscan spirituality and culture.

Below please find the entire story:-

One of the chosen disciples and first companions of Saint Francis was called Brother Juniper, a man of profound humility, deep faith, and expansive charity. About him, Saint Francis once said to his faithful followers: “Each of you could be good friars if you could conquer yourself and the world like Brother Juniper.”

Once at the Little Portion, it came to pass that Brother Juniper, motivated by concern and inflamed by love for God, went to visit a sick brother. With great compassion, he asked: “How can I serve you?” The patient replied: “I would be greatly comforted if you could find for me a pig’s foot to eat.”

Brother Juniper immediately said: “Leave it to me! You will have it soon enough!” He went quickly to the kitchen, borrowed a knife, and ran away with a fervent spirit into the wood where the pigs were kept. He threw himself upon one of the pigs, cut away its foot, and left it with just three legs. Brother Juniper returned to the convent, washed and dressed the pig’s foot, and cooked it. He presented it with much love to the patient who ate it joyfully. He was much consoled by the patient’s joy and he recounted his assault on the pig and its foot.

Meanwhile, the keeper of the pigs, who watched the pig lose his foot, angrily confronted the friars. He called them liars, thieves, rascals, hypocrites, and good-for-nothings. He cried: “Why did you cut off my pig’s foot?!” Because he heard this commotion, Saint Francis arrived at the scene and promised to compensate the keeper for the bleeding pig. But he was not pacified, remained furious, and still muttered many insults and threats. He repeated over and over how a malicious friar had cut off his pig’s foot. He listened neither to apologies or pledges, departed angrily, and left the friars feeling quite upset.

Saint Francis, full of wisdom, pondered and prayed about the events of the day. He said to himself: “Did Brother Juniper do this thing with careless and foolhardy zeal?” He summoned the accused friar and said to him: “Did you cut off the foot of a pig?” And Brother Juniper, who believed he had committed a great act of charity, said: “Yes, Sweet Father Francis, I cut off the pig’s foot. I did so out of concern for our sick brother. Considering the consolation and pleasure that it brought our poor brother, I would have cut off the feet of one hundred pigs. I believe that my actions were also pleasing to Almighty God.” In just anger and displeasure, Saint Francis replied: “Brother Juniper, why did you cause such scandal? This is a dangerous mistake in judgment. It is with good reason that the pig keeper complains and rails against us. At this moment, he is spreading an accusation of wrong-doing among our friends and neighbors throughout the town. So, I command you by holy obedience to run after the keeper, overtake him, throw yourself at his feet, confess your fault, and promise to satisfy his complaint so that he has no reason to accuse us.”

Brother Juniper was astonished by these words. He was full of wonder that anyone could be so angered by an act of charity. He believed that worldly goods, like a pig’s foot, meant nothing unless they could be shared lovingly with others. But Brother Juniper said: “Father Francis, doubt not! I will compensate the man and make him happy again. But why should I be troubled by conscience? This pig’s foot belonged more to God than to him. My actions were motivated by charity alone.” With these words, he ran away and found the pig keeper. The man had not yet recovered his equanimity. He was still angry beyond measure. But with fervor and joy, Brother Juniper explained his actions as if he had done a great service for the man for which he should be rewarded. Full of anger and beside himself with fury, the pig keeper attacked the friar with bad names and profanities. He called him a fool, a madman, a robber, and the worst of brigands.

Brother Juniper cared nothing for these insulting words. Indeed, he rejoiced in being accused and abused. He still believed that he should be praised and not blamed for cutting off the pig’s foot and feeding his sick brother. He told the story again, embraced the pig keeper, and pleaded that he had done it solely out of charity. He invited and exhorted the keeper to do the same thing to his other pigs. He said these things with so much affection, conviction, humility, and simplicity that the man recovered his senses. In tears, the pig keeper fell to his knees, confessed his anger and harsh words, and apologized for his confrontation with the friars. He went into the forest, caught and killed the three-legged pig, and cooked it. He carried with great care and deep emotion to the Little Portion and presented it to the brothers as compensation for his anger.

Afterward, Saint Francis considered the simplicity of Brother Juniper and his lasting patience under adversity. He gathered together the brothers and said to them: “My brothers, may God bless us with a whole forest of such Junipers!” (Assisiproject 2019)

13. Conclusion

Saint Francis' inclusive compassion for animals, his regarding them as sisters and brothers, his attempts to rescue many of them, and his effective communications with them constituted a noble, inspirational, and refreshing stream of animal-friendly influence during the medieval times, and still do so in our modern times, although his empathy for animals possibly still contained traces of anthropocentrism and he did not draw up explicitly vegan rules for his order of friars (probably to avoid persecution by the flesh-eating church authorities), for in both periods, most mainstream church leaders have totally ignored animal well-being,

The following passage may serve as a fair concluding remark on Saint Francis' life:-

With holy affection, then, must we think on the holiness of this blessed man, that was of such wondrous sweetness and might as that it conquered wild beasts, tamed woodland creatures, and taught tame ones, and inclined the nature of the brutes, that had revolted from fallen man, to obey him. For of a truth it is this piety which, allying all creatures unto itself, is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (Bonaventure 1904:8.11)


Bonaventure, Saint (1904). The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Trans. E. Gurney Salter. New York: E.P. Dutton.

Brundage, James A. (2003). Medieval Canon Law. NY: Routledge.

Cohn, Norman (1993). The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. London: Pimlico.

Francis, Saint (1959). Saint Francis of Assisi: His Life and Writings as Recorded by his Contemporarie. Trans. L. Sherley-Price. Woonsocket: Mowbray.

Hudleston, Roger, ed. (1926). The Little Flowers of Saint Francis.

Singer, Peter (2015 [1975]). Animal Liberation. ‎London: Bodley Head.

Singer, Peter (1985). "Ethics and the New Animal Liberation Movement." In In Defense of Animals. Ed. Peter Singer. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1-10.,the%20beings%20is%20not%20human.

Warner, Keith (2010). "St. Francis: Patron of Ecology." U.S. Catholic. 75 (4): 25, April.

Farians, Elizabeth (2009). "Animals, People and the Earth". Los Angeles: 2009 Animal Rights Conference.

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