October 4 is generally recognized as the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of the animals, steward of nature, and author of the Canticle of the Creatures. In a divinely ordained cosmos, Francis considered all elements – sun, moon, and stars, water and fire, and the animals – our sisters and brothers, and he is often depicted and described preaching to the birds, as in Giotto’s panel shown here, 1295-1300. The cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York famously marks his feast day with the blessing of the animals (this year the closest Sunday falls on Oct. 6). Thousands of creatures, from tortoises to camels, process though the nave, gather in the yard, and are blessed by clergy. This scene is replayed throughout churches around the globe, a celebration of the beasts that surround us and enhance our lives.