Born into a wealthy family, as a young man he shunned wealth and gave away his riches, and founded the Franciscan religious order, becoming the most venerated saint in Christianity. The feast of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) the patron saint of animals and the environment, is Oct. 4.

“Say, who you talking to anyway?”

“I’m talking to the people who are reading this right now in the Catholic Sentinel.”

“Oh, by the way, St. Francis was my confirmation name.”

“Well, it was my Confirmation name too, you copycat. But getting back to Francis, he was originally named Giovanni by his French mother, which is Italian for John. When his father, who did a lot of business in France, came home, he renamed him Francesco, which is Italian for “Frenchman.” But Francis’s friends just called him Francese.”

“What does Francese translate into?”

“Frenchy. Really. I’m not making that up.”

“Did Francis speak any French?”

“Yes, but imperfectly. But Francis could also speak the language of the animals. He even once had a discussion with a wolf who was terrorizing the town of Gubbio in Italy.”

“Oh really? How did that go?”

“Well, he reached an agreement with the wolf whereas if the town would feed the wolf then the wolf would stop terrorizing the town. In the end, everyone fed the wolf, and all lived happily ever after. I guess you could say St. Francis had a pretty good rapport with wild animals. In fact, animals would even come to him for safety when they were in danger.”

“My neighbors have a pit bull who threatens people. Did Francis speak any pit bull?”

“No. Pit bulls wouldn’t be invented for another 600 years. Why is it that I have this feeling that some of the pit bull language might be laced with profanities?”

“Did Francis talk to any other animals?”

“All of them. He called them his brothers and sisters. He used to give sermons to the animals. But his favorites were the birds. In fact, he gave a sermon to a flock of all sorts of birds back in 1220. Want to hear some of what he said?”

“Sure.”

Click-click-click-click — (going online here)

“Here it is. ‘My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky, 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.’ Afterwards, he mingled with the birds, and they really dug it.”

“And then?”

“Well, and then he gave the birds the blessing and they thanked him, and praised him in bird, and he dismissed them, and then they all cruised.”

“What a guy, huh?”

“St. Francis also invented the first Nativity scene.”

“He should have put a patent on that.”

“No. St. Francis wasn’t into material things. Besides, I don’t think there were many good patent attorneys around in the 13th century.

“So, what do we do for St. Francis’s feast day?”

“Hmm, let’s go online and look it up and see what they suggest we do.”

Click-click-click-click —

“It says here to do something good for animals, and to have an almond biscotti and coffee, as St. Francis was known to enjoy almond cookies.”

“Yeah. We can buy some Nonni’s Originali Almond Biscotti. You get eight in a box.”

“And then we can take the dogs to The Grotto for the blessing of the animals. That is on October 9.”

“But St. Francis’s feast day is on October 4th.”

“Well, they always move it to the following Sunday anymore. Besides, if we get a box of eight Biscotti’s, we can each have two on the 4th, and two on the 9th, and then we can save the extras for future use.”

“But what are we going to do for the dogs?”

“Well, they get blessed by the priest. The animals used to get a St. Francis medal, but I don’t know if they do that anymore. Our mutts would probably just eat them anyway. We can just get the dogs some Beggin’ Bits as a gift. So, now we have a plan for the big 4th and the big 9th.”

“Okay. But in the future, let me know ahead of time when you’re talking to the readers of the Catholic Sentinel.”

“Well, I hate to say this, but this will be the last time. You see, after 152 years, there will no longer be a Catholic Sentinel. This is the last issue.”

“Really?”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“What a loss! The Catholic Sentinel was always there, always happy news, all that fine spirit all rolled up into one small, wonderful little newspaper. And now no more? It is like losing an old friend.”

“Yes, it truly was ‘News from a higher perspective.’ But for now, this story is getting long so, for now, we should say goodbye to everyone.”

“Goodbye everyone. I’m so sorry and am going to miss you. It was nice to visit with all of you on these pages.”

Van der Hout attends St. Pius X Parish and Mount Angel Abbey.