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St. Francis of Assisi has for decades been depicted in illustrations, paintings, and even garden birdbaths as a saint with a love for animals.
But he is not the only Christian saint associated with animals. Early Christian martyrs, the Desert Fathers of Egypt, monks and hermits from Ireland to Italy, Belgian nuns, and saintly French noblemen all have fascinating accounts of animals as part of their legends. The tendency is to either naively accept all these accounts at face value or dismiss them outright as fables. However, neither approach is adequate. In this series of lectures you will approach these stories as hagiography - that is, stories of the saints intended to edify, to communicate a spiritual meaning to their audience.
These stories of saints and animals in this course are designed to offer people today an idea of how earlier Christian generations understood their fellow creatures as significant, communicating important messages of their Creator.