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It seemed to rain every day for weeks during February in central North Carolina.

The temperature also didn’t rise above 40 degrees, which is downright arctic for our area.

The COVID-19 cases were still startlingly high; everything was muddy and dark and still; it seemed like this winter would never end.

Then, one day I sat down at my desk at the church, looked out the window and noticed that about 50 robins had gathered in the small courtyard area by the office entrance.

Immediately, I thought about Noah on his ark, feeling cramped, surrounded by animal sounds and smells and sending his bird up and away in hopes of finding dry land.

The appearance of these robins was an anchor for me – a sure sign that spring was on the horizon, bringing with it better, warmer, brighter days.

Ever since then, the courtyard has been brimming with birds – robins, sparrows, cardinals, bluebirds, even the occasional goose.

I noticed recently dozens of birds perched in the budding branches of the trees surrounding the labyrinth and it reminded me of a story I heard a few years ago about St. Francis of Assisi.

The story goes like this:

One day, St. Francis and some monks were walking around the Italian countryside when he saw a large flock of birds hanging out in the branches of a tree.

Suddenly, he was overcome by the Holy Spirit and began to preach a sermon to these birds. He told them all about how much God loved them.

“My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky,” Francis said. “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.”

What a good reminder this close to Earth Day of God’s love for all of creation – not only humanity, but also the birds and fish and ferocious lions, every animal and insect and other creeping creatures, even spiders!

The trees, the flowers, the oceans, the mountains, every sand dune and towering pine – all of these things are precious to God.

It is our job to be good stewards of the resources on this amazing and beautiful globe on which we spin.

We are called to be mindful and respectful of all of its beloved inhabitants, to walk and speak and live in a way that will be a constant reminder for all things – even the birds – of God’s love for them.

The monks recorded that, after preaching his bird-sermon, St. Francis “wondered much at such a multitude of birds and at their beauty and at their attention and tameness, and he devoutly thanked God for them.”

And so do I – for these and all of God’s beloved creatures, who swoop in with hope and springtime on their wings, I give thanks.

Amen.

Author’s note: The quotes from the story of St. Francis and the birds can be found in the book, “The Little Flowers of St. Francis,” a collection of stories by Brother Ugolino Brunforte.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week for Earth Day 2021 (April 22). The other articles in the series are:

How Earth Day Aligns with Jewish Values | Leib Kaminsky

Silence on Climate Change Spurs Millennials’ Migration | Don Gordon

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