Franciscan Footprints

Why St. Francis is Often Depicted with a Wolf

Francis and wolfWhen I first began discerning with the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis, I’ll admit, I knew very, very little about their Franciscan ways: Saint Francis loved animals, our new pontiff is Pope Francis and Saint Francis is frequently referenced in environmental and sustainability concerns; but not much else.  Oh, and that they wore brown.  (Well, maybe I knew a little bit more, but compared to now, after living with a Franciscan community for nearly a year, I knew NOTHING.)

Really, when I began discerning my religious vocation, it wasn’t till I sat down and did a “vocation quiz” online & communities were matched with my interests and desires, did I start researching the differences between the Benedictines, Dominicans or Franciscans or any other order.

Here’s one of my favorite stories about Saint Francis:

The Story of St. Francis & the Wolf at Gubbio

In this story, a fierce wolf was terrorizing the village of Gubbio, in northeastern Italy.  Not only would it eat animals, even humans were attacked to satisfy its hunger.  One day, while Saint Francis was in the village, the people told them of this ferocious beast and warned him not to leave the town’s walls.

Faithful in his Lord Jesus Christ, Saint Francis went out bravely to meet the wolf, armed only with the Sign of the Cross.  When the wolf came running towards Saint Francis, with his mouth opened, Francis made the Sign of the Cross and ordered the wolf to come to him.  The wolf obeyed and then lowered its head and peacefully laid down in front of the friar.  Francis talked to the wolf, condemning the assaults, and ordered him not to hurt the people or any animals anymore.  In exchange, the townspeople agreed to feed the wolf as long as the wolf lived.  The wolf indicated his agreement by nodding its head and then giving its paw to Francis’ hand as a sign of their pact.  “Brother Wolf,” as Saint Francis called him, never bothered the people ever again and was fed by the people until the end of his days.

St Francis Statue

You can find the 13th century story, as written in the Little Flowers of Saint Francis, here.

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