From "The Little Flowers, Legends, and Lauds"

Edited by Otto Karrer,
Translated by N.Wydenbruck
1979, Sheed & Ward, London.

E.Morrogh Bernard,
Vicar General, Westminister
Aug.14, 1947

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How St.Francis converted the ferocious wolf of Gubbio (21)

At the time when St.Francis was staying in the city of Gubbio there appeared an enormous, terrible and ferocious wolf who not only devoured animals, but even men, so that all the citizens lived in great fear, for the wolf often came quite close the city, and when they went outside the walls they armed themselves as if they were going to battle. Yet even so they could not defend themselves against him if they happened to be along when they met him. Through fear of this wolf they got to the point that nobody was bold enough to venture outside the city.

For this reason St.Francis, in his compassion for the men of the city, decided to go outside to that wolf, although all the citizens advised him not to do so. And signing himself with the sign of the Holy Cross, he went out of the city with his companions, setting all his trust in God. And as the others were afraid to go any further, St.Francis alone took the road towards the place where the wolf was.

Thereupon, seeing so many citizens who had come to witness the miracle, the said wolf bounded towards St.Francis with his mouth open. St.Francis approached him and made the sign of the cross over him, saying: "Come hither, Brother wolf: I command you in the name of Christ to hurt no one, neither me nor anyone else."

Marvelous to relate; as soon as St.Francis had made the sign of the cross, the terrible wolf closed his mouth and stopped running, and when the Saint had uttered the command, he came up as gently as a lamb and lay down at St.Francis' feet.

Then St.Francis spoke to him as follows: "Brother Wolf, you do great damage in these parts, and you have committed very evil deeds, destroying and killing God's creatures without His permission, and you have not only slain and devoured beasts, but you have had the temerity to kill men who are made in the image of God. For this reason you deserve to be put to death, as the robber and wicked homicide you are. And all the people cry out and murmur against you, and the whole of this country is your enemy. But I, Brother Wolf, wish to make peace between you and them; provided you offend no more they will forgive you all your past offences and neither men nor dogs will persecute you anymore."

When St.Francis had uttered these words, the wolf showed by the movements of his body, his tail and his ears and by inclining his head that he accepted what the Saint had said and that he would observe it. Then St.Francis said: "Brother Wolf, as you are pleased to make and to hold this peace, I promise that I will see that you are provided for as long as you live by the men of this town, so that you shall never go hungry, for I know well that hunger made you do all this evil. But when I obtain this grace for you, I want you Brother Wolf, to promise me that you will harm no man and no animal; will you promise me this?

And the wolf, by bowing his head, signified clearly that he promised. And St.Francis said: "Brother Wolf, I want you to confirm this promise, so that I can place my trust in it." And St.Francis stretched out his hand and laid it submissively on to the Saint's hand, thus confirming his promise as best he could.

Then St.Francis said: "Brother Wolf, I now command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come with me in all confidence, and we will go and make this peace in God's name." The wolf obediently went with him, gentle as a lamb. The citizens, seeing this, were greatly amazed. Immediately the news spread all over the town, wherefore all the people, big and small, men and women, old and young, hurried to the market-place to see the wolf with St.Francis. As all the people were assembled there, St.Francis arose and preached to them. And at the end of his sermon the Saint said: "Listen, my brothers. Brother Wolf, who is here before you, has promised me and confirmed his word to make peace with you and not to offend you in anything ever again, if you promise to provide him with the necessary food every day, and I will stand bail for him that he will truly observe his pact with you."

Then all the people with one voice promised to feed the wolf from then on.

The said wolf lived two years in Gubbio, and went tamely into the houses from door to door, without doing any harm to anyone or having any harm done to him. The people fed him courteously, and as he went through the town and into the houses not a single dog barked at him. At the end of two years Brother Wolf died of old age, and the citizens mourned him deeply, for, seeing him pass so gently through the town, they had been reminded of the virtue and saintliness of St.Francis. Praise to be Christ, Amen.

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