Today is the feast day of one of the best-loved Christians of all times, Francis of Assissi. St. Francis was many things, but "conventional" was not one of them. The one event of his life that remains most strongly in my mind was his sermon to the birds. The effect it has on me is very like the effect when I first read Don Quixote: "If this man is as insane as he seems, then why is he making more sense than the other people?" So without more preamble, the sermon to the birds:
My sisters the birds, you are much obliged to God your creator, and always and in every place you ought to praise him, because he has given you liberty to fly wherever you will and has clothed you with twofold and threefold raiment. Moreover, he preserved your seed in Noah's ark that your race might not be destroyed. Again, you are obliged to him for the element of air which he has appointed for you. Furthermore, you sow not neither do you reap, yet God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains from which to drink. He gives you mountains and valleys for your refuge, and high trees in which to build your nests. And, since you know neither how to sew nor to spin, God clothes you and your little ones; so clearly your Creator loves you, seeing that he gives you so many benefits. Guard yourselves, therefore, you sisters the birds, from the sin of ingratitude, and be ever mindful to give praise to God.Insane or inspired? It's often a thin line between them. Either way, beloved.
Is the sermon more for the birds or the people? Given how much he loved animals, there's some chance it was for the birds after all. Do we love St. Francis despite that he's way out there, or because he's way out there but in a beautiful way, and gives us encouragement to be there too? We know we'll never amount to anything serving Christ unless we're way out on a limb as far as what the world would call sane, but it will be in a beautiful way.