When Even Wolves Kept Their Word…
St. Francis of Assisi – October 4
During the time that St. Francis was preaching in Gubbio, an enormous and ferocious wolf appeared in that area. It not only devoured other animals, but also men; and since it often came near the town, the inhabitants were taken by great fear. When the people went out to the fields, they would go armed as if for combat. Nonetheless, if any of the townspeople, even if armed, came upon it alone, he could not defend himself against it. The fear of this wolf became so great that no one had the courage to go beyond the city walls.
St. Francis, however, decided to go and meet the wolf, although all the inhabitants counseled him not to do so. Making the Sign of the Cross and putting all his trust in God, he walked out of the town with his brothers. At a certain point, his companions feared to go further, so St. Francis continued alone on the road that led to the place where the wolf stayed.
Many townspeople were following him from the distance to see what would happen. This is what they saw: The wolf advanced toward St. Francis with its mouth open. Approaching him, St. Francis made the Sign of the Cross and called out to the wolf saying: “Come here, brother wolf. In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I order you not to do any harm to me or any other person.”
Then a marvelous thing happened! As soon as the Saint spoke those words, the wolf closed its mouth, stopped advancing, and meekly laid itself down at the feet of St. Francis as if it were dead.
Then St. Francis spoke to the wolf: “Brother wolf, you are doing much harm and have committed great evils in this land, destroying properties and killing the creatures of God without His permission. You have not only killed and devoured animals, but you have dared to kill men, made in the image and likeness of God. For this, you deserve to be hanged as the terrible thief and murderer that you are. The people clamor and murmur against you, and this entire land is your enemy. But I want, brother wolf, to make peace between you and them, so that you will no longer offend them and they will forgive your past crimes, and neither men nor dogs will chase you any longer.”
As he finished saying these words, the wolf moved its body and tail and bowed its head to show that it had accepted the Saint’s proposal. Then St. Francis said: “Brother wolf, since you wish to accept and keep this peace, I promise you that the men of this land will always feed you while you live so that you will not be hungry, for I know well that it was out of hunger that you have done so many evils. But in granting you this great grace, I want you to promise me never to harm any man or animal. Do you promise this?”
The wolf, bowing its head, made an evident sign of agreement. Still not satisfied, St. Francis asked: “Brother wolf, I want you to give me a pledge of this promise, so that I can trust in it fully.” St. Francis extended his hand to receive the wolf’s pledge, and the wolf raised its right paw and meekly put it in St. Francis’ hand, giving him the requested guarantee.
Then St. Francis said: “Brother wolf, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ I command you to follow me without any fear, so that we may conclude this peace in the name of God.” And the wolf obediently followed him into the city as if it were a docile lamb. The townspeople marveled greatly at this, and the news spread quickly through the entire city so that everyone, men and women, great and small, young and old, went to the public square to see St. Francis with the wolf.
When all the people were gathered together there, St. Francis arose and preached to them with these words: “It is because of our sins that God permits calamities like this. Much more dangerous than the fury of a wolf, which can only kill the body, are the flames of Hell that will last eternally for those condemned. See how such a great multitude fears the mouth of a little animal, but you should fear the mouth of Hell much more. Make, sincere penance for your sins, therefore, and God will free you now from the wolf, and in the future from the infernal fire.”
St. Francis continued: “Listen to me, my brothers. Brother wolf, who is here before you, has promised and pledged to me to make peace with you and not offend you in anything as long as you promise to give it the food it needs each day. I offer myself as surety that it will strictly observe this pact.
All the people in unison promised to feed it always. And before all St. Francis said to the wolf: “Brother wolf, do you promise to observe with these people a pact of peace, offending neither any human creature nor his belongings?” The wolf knelt down and inclined its head, and with subdued movements of its body showed that it wanted to observe the entire pact.
But still St. Francis said: “Brother wolf, the same way you made your pledge to me outside the walls, I want you to give me assurance of your promise before all the people, that you will not deceive me about the surety I offer on your behalf.” Then the wolf, raising its right paw, put it in the hand of St. Francis.
After all this took place, there was such great joy and admiration among the entire people, both because of the virtue of the Saint and the novelty of the miracle, that all began to shout to Heaven, praising and thanking God for sending them St. Francis, who by his merits had freed them from the jaws of that ferocious beast.
After that, the said wolf lived two more years in Gubbio. It would enter docilely into the houses, going from door to door, without harming anyone and not being harmed by anyone. It was courteously fed by the people, and as it went about through the houses and city, no dog ever barked at it or chased it. When the worf died of old age after two years, all the townspeople mourned the loss greatly because in seeing it walking through the city so tame, they were better reminded of the virtue and charity of St. Francis of Assisi.