A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Dear All – First a very Happy and Blessed Feast of St. Francis this weekend! May the memory of St. Francis infuse our world with the passion, creativity and vast love he lived so deeply.

I have copied below one of my favorite stories of St. Francis –St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. I invite you as you read this familiar tale to picture the wolf as the United States and the village as one of the many communities that has had to survive our dominating presence.

Imagine the United States offering its “paw” as we promise the world to no longer terrorize but rather live in harmony.  St. Francis opened a new space when he chose to not encourage the villagers to kill the wolf; let us honor that creative action today as we work to open new spaces to transform the wolf, heal the village and trust in the faith that guides us.

At the end of the story is a great link from American Friends Service Committee which looks at our military spending and challenges us to imagine a world where 53% of our resources would not be going to war.

Happy Feast Day! Pace e Bene


St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

At the time when St Francis was living in the city of Gubbio, a large wolf appeared in the neighbourhood, so terrible and so fierce, that he not only devoured other animals, but made a prey of men and women also; and since he often approached the town, all the people were in great alarm, and used to go about armed, as if going to battle. Notwithstanding these precautions, if any of the inhabitants ever met him alone, he was sure to be devoured, as all defence was useless: and, through fear of the wolf, they dared not go beyond the city walls.

St Francis, feeling great compassion for the people of Gubbio, resolved to go and meet the wolf, though all advised him not to do so. Putting all his confidence in God, he went forth from the city, taking his brethren with him; but these fearing to go any further, St Francis bent his steps alone toward the spot where the wolf was known to be, while many people followed at a distance, and witnessed the miracle.

The wolf, seeing all this multitude, ran towards St Francis with his jaws wide open. As he approached, the saint, cried out: “Brother Wolf; I command you, in the name of Christ, neither to harm me nor anybody else.”

Marvellous to tell, no sooner had St Francis cried out, 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. And the saint thus addressed him: “Brother wolf, you have done much evil in this land, destroying and killing the creatures of God without God’s permission all creatures are made after the image of God; for which thing you could be hanged like a robber and a murderer. All of the people cry out against you, the dogs pursue you, and all the inhabitants of this city are your enemies; but I will make peace between them and you, O brother wolf, if you will no longer offend them, and they shall forgive you and all your past offences, then neither people nor dogs shall pursue you any more.”

Having listened to these words, the wolf bowed his head, and, by the movements of his body, his tail, and his eyes, made signs that he agreed to what St Francis said. On this St Francis added: “As you are willing to make this peace, I promise you that you shall be fed every day by the inhabitants of this land so long as you shalt live among them; you shalt no longer suffer hunger, as it is hunger which has made you do so much evil; but if I obtain all this for you, you must promise, on your side, never again to attack any animal or any human being; do you make this promise?”

Then the wolf, bowing his head, made a sign that he consented.

Said St Francis again: “Brother wolf, wilt you pledge your faith that I may trust you to keep this promise?” and putting out his hand he received the pledge of the wolf; for the latter lifted up his paw and placed it familiarly in the hand of St Francis, giving him thereby the only pledge which was in his power.

Now, the news of this most wonderful miracle spreading quickly through the town, all the inhabitants, both men and women, small and great, young and old, flocked to the market-place to see St Francis and the wolf.

St Francis spoke these words: “Listen my brethren: the wolf who is here before you has promised and pledged his faith that he consents to make peace with you all, and no more to offend you, and you must promise to give him each day his necessary food; to which, if you consent, I promise in his name that he will most faithfully observe the compact.”

Then all the people promised with one voice to feed the wolf to the end of his days.

Now this event caused great joy in all the people, and a great devotion towards St Francis, both because of the novelty of the miracle, and because of the peace which had been concluded with the wolf; and they lifted up their voices to heaven, praising and blessing God.

The wolf lived two years at Gubbio; he 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 as he went about.

At last, after two years, he died of old age, and the people of Gubbio mourned his loss greatly; for when they saw him going about so gently amongst them all, he reminded them of the virtue and sanctity of St Francis.



Comments on: "The United States and the Wolf of Gubbio" (6)

  1. sarah said:

    You read my mind! Just today I was creating a prayer service for 9th and 10th graders and decided to sculpt it around the wolf of Gubbio. What a powerful story… It seems that much of my work has been about “transforming the wolf and healing the village”… even if that wolf is my own self… Peace!

  2. Linda said:

    What a beautiful image – the paw, extended in peace and friendship. Last night we enjoyed hearing Greg Mortenson (3 Cups of Tea) speak at Viterbo. His work building schools, predominantly for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a model for the US and all of us to extend the hand of peace. Thanks for this lovely reflection, Liz. LM

  3. Your image invites me (us) to confront the wolf that hides inside each of us and to consider how we might extend our own paw in peace to ….

    Thanks for the image. Peace!

  4. krista said:

    I’m struck by the fact that the pledge of nonviolence from the wolf came with a welcoming gesture by the village. Can you imagine agreeing to care for someone who had given you nothing but fear and violence for so many years? I’m impressed with the courage of the village and the power of forgiveness.

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