December 17. Mario loved to tell the story of St Francis and the wolf to his grandchildren. It had become part of their family tradition as they prepared for Christmas.
ST FRANCIS TAMES THE FIERCE WOLF OF GUBBIO. A Story from THE LITTLE FLOWERS OF ST FRANCIS. “A large fierce and terrifying wolf was terrorizing the people of the town of Gubbio, devouring their animals and attacking the people too. So they needed to go about armed and were afraid to go beyond the city walls. When St Francis heard about this he felt great compassion for the people and decided to go and meet the wolf, even though he was warned not to do so. Making the sign of the cross and putting all his confidence in God he went out with some of his brothers. But they were too afraid and watched from a distance with other townspeople. So Francis went alone. When the wolf saw him he ran forward with his jaws wide open. Francis again made a sign of the cross and cried out: “Come here, Brother Wolf; I command you, in the name of Christ, not to harm me or anybody else.” No sooner had St Francis made the sign of the cross, than the terrible wolf, closing his jaws, stopped running, and coming up to St Francis, lay down at his feet as meekly as a lamb. Francis then spoke to him, “Brother wolf, you have done much evil in this land, destroying and killing the creatures of God without his permission. Not only animals have you destroyed, but you have even dared to devour men, made after the image of God. For this you should be hanged like a robber or a murderer. All the inhabitants of this city and their dogs are your enemies and pursue you, but I will make peace between you. If you will do no more harm they will forgive you and will no longer pursue you. Will you make a promise.” The wolf gave his paw to Francis to signify his acceptance. St Francis added, “ I promise that you will be fed every day by these inhabitants as long as you live among them and shall never suffer hunger as that is what made you do so much evil. Will you make this promise.” The wolf bowed his head as a sign and then walked by his side towards the town. As the news spread, the inhabitants flocked to the market place to see St Francis and the wolf. St Francis preached to the people telling them how, for our sins, God permits such calamities. How much greater and more dangerous are the flames of hell which last forever, than the rage of a wolf which kills the body only.
The wolf lived for two years at Gubbio and went familiarly from door to door without harming anyone, and all the people received him courteously, feeding him with great pleasure, and no dog barked at him. After two years he died of old age and the people mourned his loss greatly as he reminded them of the virtue and sanctity of St Francis.
Pope Francis: The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain in symbolic and narrative language profound teachings about human existence and relationships with God, our neighbour and with nature. These relationships have been broken through sin. LS 66. Other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. LS69.
For Reflection and sharing. Do we do enough to protect wild life from all the hazards they face? Our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. Comment.