Even the patron saint of animals wasn't too fond of this tiny critter.
St. Francis of Assisi is well known as a lover of animals. He preached to the birds, tamed a savage wolf and talked to whichever animal would listen to him.
However, according to a 14th-century biography called The Little Flowers of St. Francis, he wasn’t fond of one particular animal.
The medieval author begins by proclaiming a common tenet of Franciscan spirituality, “Let us take example from the beasts and birds, who, when they receive their food are content, and seek only what they need from hour to hour: and so also ought man to be content with what is barely sufficient temperately to supply his needs, asking no more.”
The author then explains, “Brother Giles said that St. Francis loved the ants less than any other animal, because of the great care they take in the summer to gather and lay up a store of grain against the winter, but that he said that he loved the birds far better, because they gathered nothing one day for another.”
From this Franciscan point of view, a person should closely imitate the words of Jesus to his apostles, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:25-26).
This is perfect for a Franciscan who is entirely reliant on God to provide his or her next meal, but may not be practical for a family who needs to make sure their children are well-fed. God encourages us to work and it is praiseworthy to do all we can to make the money we need to support our family.
However, the core message of Jesus is that we should trustin God, especially during great times of trial, such as the loss of a job or money. He loves us dearly and will provide the food we need. This does not exempt us from storing up food for when times get difficult, but it does reassure us that God is in control.
Interestingly, the author of The Little Flowers does add one spiritual lesson we can learn from ants.
But the ant giveth us an example that we should not remain idle in the summer-time of this present life, lest we be found empty and without fruit in the winter of the last and final judgment.
Even though St. Francis may have not liked ants above other animals, they are still part of God’s creation and can teach us many important lessons. He never said he “hated” ants (as some of us might be inclined to do), but still admired them for their role in nature.
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