Miracles of the Saints over Nature: -Dogs, Birds and other animals
It is absolutely amazing to see the obedience that relatively unintelligent animals often performed at the bidding of the Saints. The lives of the Saints are full of stories pertaining to the extraordinary influence of the Saints over many different kinds of animals. God, it seems, allows the Saints to have this extraordinary rapport with the animals, so as to draw their fellow man closer to Him by marveling at the wonders that He works between the Saints and the animals.
Below we have three such stories- St John Bosco and the mysterious dog "Grigio", St. Joseph of Cupertino and the story of the little goldfinch, and Father Paul of Moll and the beautiful colored messenger birds.
St. John Bosco and the mysterious dog "Grigio" who protected him on numerous occasions
Among all the amazing episodes in the life of Don Bosco, one of the greatest was the appearance of the dog "Grigio" -a huge grey dog that appeared suddenly at moments of danger, reappeared on many occasions and disappeared some years later when the danger was over. He asked for neither food nor shelter, was savage as a wolf against an enemy, but gentle as a lamb with the boys of the Oratory, and whom St. John "Don" Bosco gave the name of Grigio -"the grey one."
Don Bosco was once passing through the thickly populated quarter which lay near Valdocco late at night. It had a bad reputation: shady characters could skulk behind the tufts of scrub and brushwood and burst our upon the passerby. His mother, Margaret Bosco, was always anxious when her son was our late at night. Don Bosco had passed the last buildings of the town when a huge grey dog appeared and walked by his side.
He was startled at first, but as he found that the creature seemed friendly, he accepted its company and went on to the Orarory. When he reached the door the dog turned around and trotted off in the direction whence it had come. Every night henceforward, when Don Bosco was out late, the same thing happened. He found the dog waiting for him whenever there was a lonely part of the town to be traversed.
One night, he became aware of two suspicious-looking men who were following him, matching their pace to his. When he tried to avoid them by crossing the road, they crossed too. He decided to rum back, bur at the moment he did so they were on him. A cloak was thrown over his head and a handkerchief thrust into his mouth. He struggled to free himself and call for help, but it was useless. Suddenly, with a terrific howl, Grigio appeared and rushed upon them. Leaping on the one who held the cloak, he forced him to let go, then bit the second and flung him o n to the ground. The first tried to escape but Grigio was after him, rolled him too in the mud and stood over them both, growling furiously.
"Call off your dog!" they cried to Don Bosco.
"I will call him off if you will let me go about my business," he replied.
"Yes, anything..only call him off!"
"Come, Grigio," said Don Bosco, and the dog immediately obeyed, while the two men, terrified, made off in double quick time.
Another night, Don Bosco was on his way home when a man hiding behind a tree fired twice at him at such close range that it seems almost impossible that both shots had missed. Then, throwing away the pistol, the man rushed upon him. But at this exact moment, Grigio mysteriously appeared and seized the man, and dragged him a few feet away, growling fiercely all the while. He then released the man who instantly fled in terror, and the dog once more escorted Don Bosco home.
On another occasion it was from a whole band of thugs that this mysterious companion saved him. Don Bosco had reached a lonely spot when, hearing steps, he turned to see a man close to him with an uplifted stick. Don Bosco was a swift runner in those days, but his enemy was swifter and soon caught up with him. It was a moment of action. Don Bosco, with a well-directed blow of the fist, sent the man sprawling. His howl of pain brought several others out of the bushes where they had been hiding. They were all armed with heavy sticks, and things now looked black for Don Bosco. Once more, at the crucial moment, the terrific howl of Grigio was heard. He ran around and around his master, growling and showing his formidable teeth until one by one the ruffians turned and disappeared.
One night, instead of accompanying Don Bosco, Grigio went to the Oratory and refused to let him go out, lying down across the door of his room, for once growling and showing ill temper towards Don Bosco when he made the slightest attempt to dislodge him.
"Don't go out, John," said his mother; "if you won't listen to me, at least listen to that dog; he has more sense than you have."
Don Bosco gave in at last, and a quarter of an hour later a neighbor came in to warn him that he had overheard two rogues planning to attack him.
Another evening after supper the dog appeared in the playroom, and all the boys of Don Bosco's Oratory gathered around him and made much of him. They patted him, pulled his ears, stroked his head, the little ones rode on him. He regarded them with grave eyes until at last they brought him into the refectory where Don Bosco was still at supper. "Why, Grigio, old fellow, what brings you here?" he said. Grigio went up to him, put his great head on the table, looked at him and wagged his tail.
"What do you want, old boy? A bit of cheese or polenta?" No, he wanted neither. "Then, if you won't have anything," said his master, stroking the great head, "then go home to bed."
Grigio gave him one long look, turned around and trotted out. The reason of this unusual visit of Grigio was never really known, but it does show the remarkable gentleness and kindness of this "stray dog" who was nevertheless incredibly vicious and protective of Don Bosco on numerous occasions.
The last time Don Bosco saw him was one night in Castelnuovo. He was going from Murialdo to Moncucco and it was growing dark. He had to pass some farms and vineyards that were guarded by savage dogs. "I wish I had Grigio here," he said to himself. As if the wish had suddenly produced him, Grigio appeared with every sign of delight at meeting his friend, wagging his tail, and he walked the whole way with him.
It was lucky he was there, for two dogs at a farm they passed rushed out upon them, but Grigio in a vicious offensive soon sent both of them flying with their tails between their legs. When Don Bosco reached the friend's house to which he was bound, they were astonished to see the magnificent dog and wondered where Don Bosco had picked him up. When they sat down to supper he was lying beside them, but when Don Bosco rose to give him some food, he was not to be seen. In fact, that was the last of Grigio. The enemies of the Saint had grown tired of plotting against him, and the mysterious protector was never to be seen again.
So how can the incredible timing and actions of "Grigio" the stray dog be explained? How is it that he mysteriously showed up at just the right moment on not one, but numerous occasions to literally save the life of Father John Bosco? Was Grigio an Angel in the form of a dog? Or was he simply a dog that was mysteriously guided by God to protect Don Bosco? But how then did he seem to appear out of nowhere? One thing is for sure: God was with St. Don Bosco because he had long ago given himself completely to the service of God, and God worked incredible miracles through his intercession, that he might be a holy example to all the poor boys who came to the Oratory that he had founded which literally became for them a heavenly refuge.
[Source for the above information is the excellent book “St John Bosco” by F.A. Forbes, Tan Books, 2000.]
But before we move on to the next Saint who had a remarkable way with animals who should surely at least mention probably the most well known Saint to have an extraordinary friendship with the animals: St Francis of Assisi. It was documented on numerous occasions how the birds often flocked to him, and landed on his arms and shoulders, singing sweetly all the while. He spoke to them, and they responded by singing and fluttering their wings. One can read on the Internet the book entitled “The Flowers of St Francis” which details many of the Saints remarkable experiences with nature.
St Joseph of Cupertino’s influence over the animals
Through the grace of God, St Joseph of Cupertino worked various marvels with the animals. A linnet, to which he often said, "Praise God," would praise the Lord or cease to do so at his command. Once, on setting free a gold-finch that had been caught in a fowlers net he said to it: "Go now and enjoy what God has given thee; I ask nothing more of you than that you return when I call you to praise with me your God and mine."
Obedient to these words, the bird flew about in the garden near by and, when Joseph called it, it immediately would come straightway came to praise the Creator. A hawk once killed a finch, which the saint had trained to say, "Jesus and Mary” and also "Friar Joseph, pray your Breviary." The hawk returned at the saint's command and, when he reproached it saying, "You, thief! You have killed my finch and you deserve that I should kill you!" Amazingly, the hawk remained perched on the cage as if sorry for its misdeed, and the witnesses state that it even allowed Joseph to strike it with his finger, and only flew away when he said, "Now go. This time I will pardon thee, but do not do such a thing to a pet again."
To the nuns of St. Clare at Copertino the saint presented a white lamb to watch over the discipline of the community. The lamb always was with the Nuns during their spiritual exercises and was ever alert in the Chapel to wake the sleepy by butting and jostling or to remove with hoofs and teeth any vain finery which it observed.
When the lamb had died, the saint promised to send the nuns a bird which should prompt them to love God, and thus it came to pass. One day as the nuns were reciting the Divine Office, a forest songster perched on the window of the choir and sang most sweetly. And thus day by day the merry warble of the feathered songster accompanied and encouraged the chanting of the nuns, until one day it saw two novices quarrelling and flew between them in an endeavor to part them with its outspread wings and tiny claws. One of the novices struck the bird, and it flew away and did not return, though it had been with the community for five years.
The nuns were grieved because of this and complained to Joseph, but he said: "It serves you right; why did you provoke it and chase it away? It is therefore unwilling to come again." But, at their repeated request, he promised to send the bird again. At the first summons to choir, the bird not only came to the window and sang, but, grown more tame than before, and flew into the monastery. The nuns tied a small bell to its foot. When it failed to appear on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, they again had recourse to Joseph, who replied to them: "I sent you the bird that it should sing, not that it should ring a bell. It has stayed away because during these days it has guarded the holy sepulchre. I will see that it comes back again." And the bird returned once again and remained with the pious nuns until its death.
Father Paul of Moll and the miraculous messenger birds
The saintly Father Paul of Moll , who is known as "The Benedictine Wonder-Worker of the Nineteenth Century," also had a mysterious experience with birds. We are told in his biography that whenever he visited Antwerp he would call upon a certain invalid lady and her servant, Theresa.
Fr. Paul, in the year 1887, told the servant Theresa that she would know beforehand of his approaching visits. At his next visit he asked, "Well, have the little birds announced my coming?"
As a matter of fact, on the eve of Father Paul's visits to the lady, beautiful little birds, varying in number from two to twelve at a time, began to make their appearance in the garden, singing a joyful air which was always the same. They would also perch on the window-sill of the drawing room which looked out upon the garden, and tap upon the window panes. Although the tune of the mysterious songsters never varied, they had at each successive visit a different plumage.
Not only did the servant, Theresa, see the birds, but also the invalid lady and her nurse. Neither of them could tell where the birds came from any more than Theresa could. But were the birds from the tropics? But in that case these delicate little creatures would hardly have ventured into our climate in all seasons, for they came in winter, when it was snowing and very cold, as well as in summer. The nurse tried repeatedly to catch one of the birds, but in vain. She spoke of it to Fr. Paul and he replied, "Oh! they won't let themselves be caught!"
When asked about the beautiful little birds, Fr. Paul replied with a smile, "They are messengers." Fr. Paul then warned Theresa not to speak of the birds to anyone except to an intimate friend of hers. He then warned, "If during my lifetime you spread the news abroad, the birds will never come again."
On the eve of Fr. Paul's death, the birds appeared once more, but they were somewhat dejected and with drooping wings sang a melancholy song which the members of the household understood to be a presentiment of a tragic happening. Six months passed before the birds returned again, and this took place when a photograph of Fr. Paul was hung in the invalid's drawing room. At this time they sang beautiful melodies, but it is reported that afterwards their visits were infrequent.
As mentioned earlier, the birds appeared each time in a different plumage. Theresa, however, was able to give us a description as the birds appeared on Wednesday, September 30, 1897, a year and seven months after Fr. Paul's death.
“Today, at ten minutes to eleven, two little birds of incomparable beauty arrived; their plumage was blue, green and purple, their breasts and heads white, the latter with stripes of deep purple in the form of a garland.”
Another lady of Antwerp was favored with a visit of Fr. Paul. She had two small sons who were covered with horrible eruptions which the doctors could not cure. When Fr. Paul saw the condition of the children he advised the mother to make a novena and wash both children with water containing the medal of St. Benedict. Fr. Paul was a promotor of the medal of St. Benedict and often advised this remedy to those who were ill. The mother was surprised by this advice and replied, "But the physician forbade me to wash them in water." Fr. Paul repeated his advice, "I tell you, wash them twelve times a day for nine days." Before the end of the novena both children were perfectly cured. This is just one of the countless miracles worked by Father Paul of Moll, "The Benedictine wonder-worker of the nineteenth century."
The same woman tells us, "I have visited the grave of Fr. Paul three times, and on each occasion a beautiful little bird came and sang over the tomb as long as I prayed there. The bird did not fly away until the moment I left."
-"The more a man loves God, the more beautiful he grows in the eyes of God."
-"God being infinite love, we can always love Him more and more."
-"Oh love! Oh infinite love! Oh eternal love! Oh sweet love of God !"
-"Man finds his greatest consolation in faithfully keeping the commandments of God and the holy Church, and in having a great devotion to Mary."
-Some sayings of Father Paul of Moll
-Click here for more information on the extraordinary life of Fr. Paul of Moll