October 4th is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Animals and Ecology.
To honor him, I thought I would share two of my favorite stories about this remarkable man.
St. Francis and the Wolf
The Town of Gubbio, in which Francis had first ministered to lepers, sits on the slopes of Mount Igino, near Assisi, Italy.
I visited there when I lived in Italy – and it’s a very lovely place.
During St. Francis’s life, the town was plagued by a vicious wolf.
The stories of the infamous wolf were well known throughout the area, and the people of Gubbio lived in constant fear of it.
Francis decided to put an end to this problem and made his way to the town with one companion.
He explained his mission, and the townspeople begged the beloved Francis to remain within the town walls for protection, but Francis soon took his leave to meet the wolf.
He carried no weapons, but he asked his quivering companion to go with him. He made the sign of the cross and quickly left the city gate.
Almost immediately, the wolf ran from its cover to meet the two men. Francis raised his arm and made the sign of the cross over the wolf, and the wolf immediately stopped dead in its tracks.
Francis spoke, "Brother Wolf, come here. In the name of Christ I command you not harm anyone any more."
The wolf approached the saint and lay down at the feet of Francis.
Francis continued, "Brother Wolf, you have done much harm, not only destroying creatures of God without mercy, but devouring women and men, too, who are made in the image of God. But though you do indeed deserve to be punished, the Lord wants you to make peace with all His creatures instead."
This offer of repentance was accepted by the wolf, who placed his paw in Francis's hand as a sign of agreement not to harm God's creatures anymore.
Then, Francis, his no-longer shaking companion, and the wolf marched into Gubbio to the amazement of its citizens.
Francis preached repentance to the people, too, because sins can cause calamities, such as vicious animals, to fall on people.
He reminded them, too, that the tortures of hell are much worse than the attack of an animal. “Repent!” he called to the people of Gubbio.
He also advised them to take care of Brother Wolf who would no longer be killing for his sustenance.
From then on, the wolf went from door to door receiving food and love from the people of the tiny village of Gubbio.
St. Francis and the Wild Doves
One day a young man caught a number of wild doves, which he was going to sell. On his way, he happened to meet Francis who inquired about his intentions.
Francis then asked for the doves which he described as "emblems in scripture" so that they would not fall into cruel hands or suffer a tortuous death.
The young man was inspired, and he immediately gave the doves to Francis.
Francis embraced the doves saying, "O my little sisters the doves, so simple, so innocent and so chaste. Why did you allow yourselves to be caught? I will save you from death, and make your nests, that you may increase and multiply, according to the command of God."
Francis took the doves home and prepared nests for them, and the doves and their many offspring lived among Francis and his friars as if they had always been pet hens, rather than wild doves.