Catholic Birder

Birds have had my attention for over 30 years. God for just a few. Before birds were a passion. Now they are a confirmation. Saint Francis of Assisi, patron of birds, pray for us.

November 15, 2005

St. Albert the Great - Catholic Birder?

Today is the feast day of St. Albert the Great (c.1206-1280), Doctor of the Church, Catholic Scientist and, some might say, Catholic birder. He hunted with falcons, studied birds and saw nature as a path to understanding its artist, God.

One book on the Doctors of the church states “Albert knew and wrote about 114 species of birds, 113 quadrupeds, 139 aquatic animals, 61 serpents and 49 worms. He was the first to mention the weasel and the artic bear, the first to speak intelligently about the reproductive functions of birds." St. Albert’s College has a nice biography of its patron saint.

According to Sister Jean Dorcy, O.P., in her book St.Dominic's Family, St. Albert made detailed studies of the birds around him. St. Albert's approach to science is quoted in her book, "The aim of natural science is not simply to accept the statements of others, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature."

Here St. Albert uses the metaphor of an egg to explain how our lives, not our treasures, are our greatest gift to God:

"An egg given during life for love of God is more profitable for eternity than a cathedral full of gold given after death. To forgive those who have injured us in our body, our reputations, our goods, is more advantageous to us than to cross the seas to go to venerate the sepulcher of the Lord. Knowledge of divine things is imprinted on our minds by union with God, who is Wisdom itself, just as the wax molds itself into the seal--not the reverse."

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My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple rainment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sow, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God. Saint Francis of Assisi - c 1220

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