Thursday, April 19

Did You Know Attending Church Can Help Seniors Live Fuller Lives? Here’s How

Guest article by Jason Lewis
As we age, it can be difficult to find our place in the world. Health problems, life stresses and changes in our family can be overwhelming, so it’s important to be able to find some direction amid all of the chaos. Church can provide that direction, as well as a host of other benefits, for seniors and older adults. Going to church can bring positivity to our lives in the form of these five connections. 

Connections With Others 

Church services are a wonderful means to connect with other people in the community in a positive way. At a time when friends may be far away or when family is tied up with everyday life, it can be hard to find ways to reach out to other people. Yet, social ties are crucial to maintaining a positive spirit and good mental health. Through church, weekly services, study classes and social activities allow seniors the chance to connect with like-minded people. People who will be there in  times of need and people who will help provide needed care and compassion, relieving the negative impact of loneliness in life

Connection to Compassion 

Most churches encourage charitable actions and giving, allowing seniors who attend the opportunity to give back to the community. Gathering clothing for families in need, collecting blankets for the homeless and organizing food drives are just some of the ways churchgoers regularly contribute to those who are less fortunate. If a senior doesn’t feel up to physically helping out, there are plenty of chances to give supplies or money to worthy causes and reap the benefits to the soul and body. If a senior finds themselves in need, say for a warm meal or help with household chores, a church community can provide for them as well. 

Connection to the World 

Aging can leave us wondering about our lives and really contemplating how we are connected to the vast expanse of the universe. It can be lonely to think about, but church can offer spiritual guidance and allow seniors to really feel connected to the world. Knowing that each person has a purpose, each life is worth living and every person is capable of redemption can help those who may feel lost or lonely. Feelings of loneliness can lead to dependence on alcohol, prescription drugs or other unhealthy vices, which only serve to make seniors feel more lost. Turning to church is a much healthier way to deal with these upsetting feelings. 

Connection to Purpose

We yearn to leave our mark upon the world and we tend to do this by leaving our wisdom with others. When careers have come to an end and families have grown apart, many seniors may be left with idle time on their hands. Hands that once cared for children and a mind that mentored workers may feel restless and ineffective. Most church communities consist of members from multiple generations and seniors can have an opportunity to help shape youthful minds. Senior church members are a source of wisdom and stability for their younger friends. 

Connection to Ourselves 

“It can be difficult to make ourselves focus on the here and now, especially if we’re going through a transition as life-changing as addiction recovery,” says “But taking even a few minutes a day to be mindful of all we have in the present moment - and especially all we have to be grateful for - can help us feel more at peace with ourselves, our surroundings, and our circumstances.” Going to church offers dedicated access to these mindful thoughts and practices. Church encourages prayer, which is a chance to reflect within, to reflect upon what we have in our lives and to ask for help pressing forward through life’s problems. Prayer helps us find peace within ourselves and peace with the world around us. 

We all want to feel connected, to feel loved and to feel like we have made the most of our lives, especially as we grow older. Church can provide comfort, compassion and connection when we need it most, and help us age with dignity and grace.

Friday, August 11

Who was Clare of Assisi?

Clare of Assisi (1193-1253) was an Italian saint, and the founder of what became the Second Order of the Franciscans - the Poor Clares, a religious order within the Church. Clare (Chiara) was born into a wealthy and high-class family – the Offreduccios. Her mother, Ortolana, was convinced that her daughter would be "enlightened" by God, and hence called her Clare, after being assured of a safe delivery in a vision.1 Clare called herself "the little plant of the most blessed Francis" throughout her writings, as well as calling herself a servant or "handmaid of Christ."There are a number of writings about Clare, including the Legend of St. Clare, the Versified Legend, the Process of Canonization and others. But within the manuscript tradition we currently have, Clare herself  only authored four letters written to St. Agnes of Prague, a letter written to Ermentrude of Bruges, her Testament, her Rule (Form of Life/Forma Vitae) and a Blessing. But who was this marvelous woman? How did she become involved with the friars, and how did her sisterhood develop? This is a brief, cursory look at Clare and by no means an exhaustive look at her life or writings, but on this Feast of St. Clare, may we remember her kindness, her charity and her example.3 
Mary Petruolo as Clare
from Clare and Francis (2009 film)

According to the hagiography, as a young child, much as one would use prayer beads today, Clare counted her “Our Fathers” by using a pile of stones, she expressed a concern for the poor – even going as far to give them her food and money (alms), and fasted. These pious devotions and the way she carried herself caught the fancy of young men, so that there were many men who sought to be with Clare Offreuduccio. No man could win her fancy, but ultimately St. Francis of Assisi caught her attention with his preaching. According to St. Clare later on in her life, Francis had made a prophecy concerning her. This prophecy claimed there would be women who would come to claim San Damiano as their home and would use it to bring glory to God. She tried sending money to help out St. Francis and his earliest Brothers so that they could buy food, which they took as a kind gesture – but they had taken a vow not to touch money.

It was not long after this when Clare decided to follow in the footsteps of Francis. She wanted to leave her home (which of course meant leaving her family, nobility and money behind) and take on a life of poverty, modeling her life after Jesus’ disciples and becoming one of the followers of Francis. This was easier said than done, and Clare had to jump through a lot of hoops before she could carry out this wish. By the time that Clare was eighteen, around during the night of March 18-19, 1211, she gained secret sanction from the local bishop of Assisi – Bishop Guido.4 We believe that this sanction came through a Palm Sunday mass, where she was handed a palm branch personally by Guido, something that would have been very uncommon at the time. 

According to the hagiography, Clare escaped that evening by opening up the door that had been barricaded by iron and heavy wood – which implied aid from God. According to various scholars, there were two doors in homes of that time, one which you would go in and out of, and one that would only be used to pass out of when a death had occurred in the family. This was the door it is believed Clare passed through, to signify a death but also a new birth. Guido had already made arrangements with the watchmen at the city gates to let her through, so Clare left Assisi and walked down the valley to the Porziuncola, where she met the friars. Francis cut her hair, which was an act of commitment to God on her part, and these locks of hair are still found in her Church. To avoid the suspicion of townspeople seeing a woman joining the brothers, Francis sent Clare to a nearby Benedictine monastery - St. Paul of the Abbesses. Her male relatives were rather upset, especially her uncle, so they came to the monastery to try and drag her home. She clung to the altar, and revealed her hair had been cut off. Angrily, they returned to Assisi without her. 

While San Damiano was being prepared for her and other women, Clare stayed at Sant’Angelo di Panzo on Mount Subasio. Unlike Benedictines, the kind of community that started with Clare was not necessarily following a Rule, or even a Forma Vitae at this point, but various principles decided on by the community. The Testament of St. Clare speaks of a Form of Life given to her by Francis, so it is possible they were given this later on. Two weeks after Clare had left home, her sister Catherine joined her at Sant’Angelo di Panzo. Following this, the hagiography says that twelve family members were enraged and tried to come and retrieve Catherine (who was likely named Agnes by Francis after this event). They dragged her by her hair out of the place down the mountain while Clare prayed for divine intervention. At this, the body of Catherine became like lead; so heavy that the men could no longer carry or drag her, and when her Uncle prepared to kill her, his hand became filled with pain. Clare came down and asked her family to leave and she would care for Catherine, and they departed.

Within a few days, Clare and Catherine (Agnes), with the help of Francis, Bernard and Philip made the move to San Damiano. News spread of what was going on at San Damiano and women from all over – Perugia, Spoleto, Rome and elsewhere – made the journey in order to join Clare. As the sisterhood grew, so too did their principles. The early sisters, as described by the bishop Jacques de Vitry, were working with the sick. This sisterhood began to engage in manual labor, prayer and contemplation, and also tried to live in gospel poverty. Various religious orders of the time sought to distance themselves from women - as the some in the First Order did following the death of Francis, but Francis made Clare and her sisterhood a promise that he and his brothers would never turn their backs on them. Francis was going against the social and religious norm of the time by staying close to the female religious. The brothers and sisters lived similarly, without possessions, helping others in the name of Christ. 

Clare did not set out to found the “Second Order,” she had planned on joining Francis’ group. Even living in San Damiano, she saw herself as joining Francis. The best witness for this is the Form of Life by Clare herself, in Chapter Six: Not Having Possessions:
“After the Most High Heavenly Father saw fit by His grace to enlighten my heart to do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessed father Saint Francis, shortly after his own conversion, I, together with my sisters, willingly promised him obedience. When the Blessed Father saw we had no fear of poverty, hard work, trial, shame, or contempt of the world but, instead, we held them as great delights, moved by piety he wrote a form of life for us.”
San Damiano in Assisi, Italy
Clare wanted to develop her own Forma Vitae for her community, however, in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council, it was declared that no new rules could be formed. This forced the early Franciscans to look for a rule that came close to the vision of St. Francis, and the Benedictine Rule was the closest. Since St. Francis could no longer technically induct new candidates or receive their vows, Clare took on the responsibility. She wrote to the Pope on behalf of the movement, and he granted the request of the sisterhood to live without possessions and without any legal property - the Privilege of Poverty. Although still in keeping with the Benedictine rule, this privilege then allowed the sisterhood to stay in line with the brotherhood. The sisterhood also continued to grow and expand, and several of Clare’s relatives joined. Other monasteries were established (or assisted), and they became known in some circles as the “Lesser Sisters,” although Francis preferred they be called “Poor Ladies.” They became widely known as the Order of San Damian, as they began at the church of San Damiano. 

Clare became well-known for her actions – she would kiss the feet of those she was washing, she would personally clean the sheets and beds of the sick, she would not often give out orders but get things done herself, and she also tended to wear shirts made of hair and slept in a bed made of vine branches. Her reputation as a healer grew, yet her lack of food got to a point where Francis and Cardinal Hugolino commanded her to eat and drink a little bread and water a few times a week. Her self-punishment led to Clare becoming an invalid by 1225 and was usually in bed for long periods of time until she died in 1253. Prior to his death, Francis came to San Damiano and composed the Canticle of the Creatures, addressing some lines to the sisterhood, exhorting them to continue the path they are on and use discernment. Clare is well known in iconography as the saint who, when Assisi was being assaulted by Saracen mercenaries in 1240, held up the Eucharist to fend them off. She did this again when the troops of Vitalis d'Aversa in June 1241 came through Assisi.5 

Early on, the sisters lived simply and seemingly followed this basic Forma Vitae given to them by Francis. Whens Francis was alive, the Cardinal Hugolino had not intruded much on Clare’s life. Then, in March of 1227, Hugolino became Pope Gregory IX and canonized Francis. At that point, he still tried to cajole Clare to enter his Order of Sisters. He followed the Cistercian pattern of monastic life, which included religious women being cloistered. Thus, following the death of Francis, Hugolino soon gave the sisters at San Damiano his Forma Vitae, not for a kind of Confederation of Clares, as this was specifically for the Sisters at San Damiano - who became known as the Order of St. Damian at that time.

In 1247 they were given a Forma Vitae by Pope Innocent IV. He said that their canonical base is the Friars Minor, and declared the Order of St. Damian to be truly Franciscan. He wrote, “we… grant to you and those who come after you the observance of the Rule of Saint Francis with respect to the three [counsels], namely obedience, the renunciation of property in particular, and perpetual chastity, as well as the Form of Life written in the present document, according to which you have particularly decided to live.”6 In some ways this helped the Sisters as it established their relationship to the First Order, but in other ways it created more problems. This meant that the autonomy of the Sisters was greatly reduced, and it is clear that the Second Order was under the First. It meant that they were subject to the authority of the friars, and their leadership had to answer to the friars. Now, the Forma Vitae of Ugolino and that of Innocent gave way to confusion over possessions and property, so early in the midst of all of this, Clare finally decided to write her own Forma. After several years of fighting for it, Cardinal Rainald Di approved it in 1252 but the Pope had not. At this time, Clare’s health started to decline, and she desired Papal approval. The Pope was in Assisi, and on August 9, 1253, they brought it to him, he approved it, Clare embraced it, and she died on August 11. These various Forms of Life are crucial to an understanding of how these 13th century female penitents became the Second Order of the Franciscans.

The Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi
After the death of Clare, the Second Order began to take a different shape. In 1260, the Sisters moved from San Damiano to the former St. George's in Assisi, which became the Basilica of St. Clare. During the Chapter of Pisa in 1263, St. Bonaventure wrote to Aragon in Spain, saying that the brothers were not sure what to do with the Sisters, and some even proposed not associating with them - clearly not something one would expect if it had already become a “Second Order.” So Bonaventure wanted friars to take around contracts to the Sisters to sign stating their legal independence from the Friars. But Pope Urban IV, seeing all of this, decided to write a new Forma Vita - a Rule. He wrote that this Rule would replace the Forma Viate of Hugolino and Innocent, so the friars had to go around and get the Sisters to switch their obedience in 1263 to this new Rule. In 1288, Clare’s own community in 1288 gave up following Clare’s Forma and followed Urban’s Rule. What up to now had been the Order of St. Damian now became the Order of St. Clare, the Second Order of the Franciscans.

Clare was canonized by Pope Alexander IV on September 26, 1255, a mere two years after her death. Her body has had an interesting journey as well. Her remains had been placed in the chapel at San Giorgio while her Basilica was being built. Thus, after it was completed, on October 3, 1260 her remains were moved there and placed under the high altar. They were rediscovered in 1850, and in 1872, were moved to the crypt of the Basilica. When I visited Assisi two years ago, her remains were still there.7 The original Rule of St. Clare with the bull of approval "Solet annuere" was found in 1893. In 1958, she was declared the patron saint of television by Pope Pius XII - this is because Clare had once been very sick and could not attend Mass. However, according to the story, she was able to see and hear the Mass on the wall in her room, as if watching a modern-day television!8  

Her writings here are important to note. One of the important theological concepts that Clare often wrote about, particularly in her four letters to St. Agnes of Prague, was that of the "mirror of eternity" or "mirror of contemplation." What we may call "mirror literature" was popular in religious circles of the 12th-13th centuries, but Clare contributes in demonstrating the Christological and feminine qualities of the mirror.9 In her Third Letter to Agnes, for example, she writes "Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance and, through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself...".10 In her Fourth Letter to Agnes she writes, "Gaze upon that mirror [Jesus] each day, and continually study your face in it, that you may adorn yourself within and without with beautiful robes ... Look at the border of that mirror . . .At the surface of that mirror, consider ... Then, in the depth of this same mirror, contemplate ... that Mirror, suspended on the wood of the Cross."11  According to Clare of Assisi: The Early Documents, "No one had developed that type of imagery as Clare did; it was largely overlooked until the fourteenth century. But Clare goes beyond suggesting the mirror as an image of Christ; she offers it as a means of growing in a likeness of the Incarnate Word.... Although many male authors before her had taken the mirror as a starting point of their reflections on the spiritual life, no one had developed it as speculatively and practically as Clare."12

Regardless of what ensued the death of St. Clare of Assisi, she will be remembered for being a strong, female role model, the first to develop a religious Rule for a community of sisters as well as the first to open up a different understanding of religious life for women. She was a deeply spiritual and contemplative women who continues to speak to us today through her beautiful and powerful words, through her courage and through her strength. When we think of the Franciscan movement, especially the early movement, we must never forget the importance of Clare. Clare is her own person, not simply a "little plant" of St. Francis, although in her words she is also that - but she is also much more than that. She stands on her own as a pillar holding up our Franciscan tradition, and can serve as an inspiration to Christians from all walks of life and especially women seeking a voice in this world. On this Feast of St. Clare, may we remember her life and example, and may we never forget the Lady Clare of Assisi. 

1. Process of Canonization of St. Clare III.28; Legend of St. Clare = LegCl 2.
2. Rule I.3; Testament 37.49.
3. This article is based in part upon Maurice Carmody's "Clare of Assisi and the Order of Poor Ladies," as well as a "Survey of Franciscan History" with Fr. Dominic Monti, OFM and my own research.
4. Recent scholarship is divided over whether her conversion and departure from Assisi occurred in 1211 or 1212. The other major controversy which divides scholars involves her birth year - either 1193 or 1194.
5. Process of Canonization III.18-19.
6. Forma Vitae of Pope Innocent IV 1.114. 
7. Muscat, Fr. Noel, OFM. "3. Writings of St. Clare of Assisi (1)." The Franciscan Experience: Living the Gospel through the Centuries. December 30, 2001.
8. Pope Pius XII. "Lettre Apostolique Procalamant Ste Claire Patronne Celeste De la Television"August 21, 1958.
9. In Clare of Assisi: The Early Documents. "Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents." 21-22. Print.
10. CA:ED Third Letter to Agnes of Prague 12-14; emphasis mine.
11. CA:ED The Fourth Letter to Agnes of Prague 15, 19, 22-24.
12. CA:ED "Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents." 21-22.

Thursday, August 10

Francis of Assisi and the Wolf of Gubbio: A Critical Look

“The wolf will live with the lamb....They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.”1

The Poverello, Francis of Assisi (1182-1226 CE), is often depicted as the birdbath saint. We find him in gardens, with birds on his shoulder. Perhaps you have brought your dog or cat to be blessed on the Feast of St. Francis. You may have heard his famous Canticle of Creatures, speaking of “Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” recently popularized by the 1972 film of the same name. In his letter Inter Sanctos (1979), the pope declared St. Francis the “patron of those who promote ecology.”2 This idyllic, eco-theological image of Francis is also associated with a wolf - the story of the wolf of Gubbio, Frate Lupe. Where does this story come from? What do we know about its historical setting, its various interpretations, what parallel stories do we find? Was the wolf really a wolf, or was it a man? More importantly, how does this 14th century story speak to us in the 21st century, especially as a Franciscan community?

Historical Context: The Fioretti and Gubbio
Ettore Bassi as Francis in the 2009 film Clare and Francis
The story of the wolf of Gubbio can be found in Chapter 23 of the Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Brothers (the Actus) as well as in Chapter 21 of the Little Flowers of St. Francis (the Fioretti). We will be using the latter. The Fioretti is a Tuscan “Italian translation of the Latin text of The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Brothers by Ugolino Boniscambi of Montegiorio,”3 a Franciscan friar. The author of the Fioretti is anonymous, and we do not know if it was a translation or original work. Some scholars believe that the translator of the Fioretti was John of San, Lorenzo a friar who was Bishop of Bisignano from 1354 to 1357,4 or friar John of Marignolli (1338-1353) or an unknown friar from Siena.5 The earliest manuscript is dated to 1396, which led some scholars to believe that it was written in the last decade of the fourteenth century.6 Most of the text remains identical to the Actus, but the Actus contain twenty−two chapters not appearing in the Fioretti, and the Fioretti six chapters not appearing in the Actus. There are fifty-three short chapters in the Fioretti, which are divided into two parts - Francis and his companions, and the brothers of the Marches of Ancona.7

Its purpose was to compile a written version of oral stories that had been circulating for several decades concerning Francis and his companions. The title is a powerful theological statement, not simply decorative speech. These “little flowers” are the stories, which are “brought together in this collection as a kind of bouquet. Now, flowers were popular in the imagination of the Middle Ages: a similar floral image underlies the devotion of the rosary, a collection of prayers cast as individual ‘flowers’ brought together in a kind of ‘garland’ or ‘garden,’ which came into its current form more or less during the same period of time, and the use of floral imagery in… European art.”[SRC?] But the title also stands for more than simply a flower. As Robert Hopcke beautifully expresses, “the title also refers to the simple, humble people with whom Francis spends his life and to whom he ministers… the ecclesiastical grandees of the Roman Catholic Church are given very little space… it is always the ‘little flowers,’ normal people, everyday folks, the townspeople, peasants, works, and women, who take center stage throughout, making these ‘folk tales’ in every sense. ”8 Further, there was a medieval Italian custom of calling a selection or compilation chapters from a text a fiorentum, fiore, fioretto, fiori or fioretti.9 Franciscan scholar Jean-François Godet-Calogeras points out in regard to the Actus and is also true of the Fioretti, “When [the author] tells his stories, it seems that he wants to teach models of action, guidelines of Franciscan behavior and attitudes in particular situations.”10

The story itself is set about an hour north of Assisi in Gubbio, Italy (also known as Agobio), an ancient Etruscan and later Roman town in the Umbrian Valley, designated a municipium in 90 BCE.11 The local industries of Gubbio included silk, ceramics, wool, agricultural products, and metalwork. In 1213, the Bishop of Assisi convinced the Benedictines to give Francis and his companions the Chiesa della Vittorina, a small church outside the current city walls, where Francis later traditionally encountered the wolf.12 This is allegedly also where St. Francis first arrived in Gubbio when he came and took on beggar’s clothes early in his conversion. The encounter with the wolf allegedly took place around 1220, the same year Francis resigned from leadership of the Order.13 Now, Gubbio was an important place mentioned throughout the Early Documents. We read, for instance, that after Francis renounced his father, “he moved on to the city of Gubbio, where he obtained a cheap tunic from an old friend.”14 Several of his reported miracles either occurred in Gubbio or with people from Gubbio, as we read of a crippled woman;15 a woman with withered hands - who then made a cheesecake for Francis;16 a sick boy whose father brought him to the tomb of Francis,17 as well as a color-blind woman,18 a woman who simply invoked the name of Francis,19 a woman who made a vow to Francis and recovered her vision,20 a little girl whose limbs were crippled and was healed at the tomb,21 of Brother Bartolo of Gubbio who was healed,21 and we also read a parable of a sow who devours a lamb in Gubbio.23 All of these miracles are attested to throughout the Early Documents, demonstrating the importance of Gubbio for early biographers.24

Structure and Central Ideas of the Text
The story itself is a rather simple one, but it contains profound meaning. While Francis was “staying” in Gubbio,25 a large male wolf terrified the townspeople and created issues for them. Francis went out to make peace with the wolf, and after doing so, made peace between the wolf and the townspeople, and as his cause for violence was hunger, they promised to feed him every day. Francis then preached a sermon on sin, and told them to return to God and do penance. The people agreed to all of this, so Francis departed and for two years the wolf lived in peace with the people of Gubbio before dying of old age. On the surface, this story seems straightforward - Francis makes peace, preaches, and departs - but there are also many layers to it.

If we were to look at the structure of the text, what would it look like? Working from the structure as given by Gerard Freeman in Greyfriars Review, we may divide it as follows:26

1. The situation within Gubbio (lines 1-14)
2. Francis leaves Gubbio to meet the wolf (lines 15-24)
3. Outside of Gubbio, meeting the wolf (lines 25-91); Subdivided as:
3.1 Confrontation between Francis and the wolf (lines 25-42); A prohibition.
3.2 First part of the conversation. (lines 43-65); Break with the former status quo
3.3 Second part of the conversation. (lines 66-82) Terms for a peace-pact
3.4 Third part of the conversation. (lines 83-91) Conclusion of the peace-pact
4.Gathering in the market place (lines 92-105); Francis and the wolf (in lines 92-98); with the people (in lines 99-105)
5. What transpires in the market place. (lines 106-162); Subdivided as:
5.1 Francis’ sermon to the people. (lines 106-120)
5.2 The townspeople’s promise to the wolf. (lines 121-132)
5.3 The wolf’s promise to the townspeople. (lines 133-142)
5.4 The wolf confirms the peace-pact (lines 143-152)
5.5 Agreement from the townspeople. (lines 153-162)
6. Concluding act, inside the city (lines 163-175); Gubbio and the wolf now live in peace.
Working from this outline, what are some of central ideas and themes of this text? One thing to note from the beginning is the use of Scripture - Genesis 1:26-27 referring to “people, made in the image of God,” Acts 16:18, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ,” Matthew 10:28, “can only kill the body,” Luke 24:53, “praising and blessing.” These biblical phrases are woven throughout to ground the text within the tradition and perhaps call to mind certain stories from Scripture, something which was common not only in the writings of and about Francis, but throughout medieval Christian writing. Another point we notice is that there is a lot of conversation, and not a lot of action. Despite what one might expect from a typical Medieval story about a man and a wolf, this encounter ends peacefully, without conflict. Francis as the peacemaker seeks to bridge the gap between the wolf and the townspeople, and thereby introduces the element of reconciliation and relationship. At the same time, reading through a 21st century American Catholic lens, we may miss some of the more pointed ideas of the text, in an effort to spiritualize the story. This is where the sermon comes in.

From St. Bonaventure University (1964)
The sermon is crucial for understanding both the central idea and the purpose of this text. Freeman writes, “images of ‘eternal death’ and ‘eternal life’ are basic for grasping the intent of the story. Francis contrasts the wolf with the fire of hell…. The only way to escape both the wolf and the fire of hell is the practice of penance… [the wolf’s] presence offers an opportunity for people to return to God… [the wolf] is the model for successful conversion.”27 This medieval story can be interpreted as an allegory about sinfulness and why God allows disasters. Francis says this in his sermon, “God allows such things and pestilences because of sins; and the flame of hell… is much more dangerous than the fierceness of the wolf.” This interpretation is seen elsewhere in the Early Documents where huge wolves and hailstones are a punishment from God for sin.28 This point cannot be glossed over, because his ultimate conclusion and reason for sharing this is to remind them of their need for conversion and penance, just as he instructs his brothers in his Testament.29

But there is another reason we may consider as to why this story was recorded. When Francis left Gubbio, he left a void which was then filled by the wolf, as we read that the wolf’s presence reminded the townspeople of “the virtue and holiness of Saint Francis.” But when the wolf died two years later, it left a void which needed to be filled - a void which “has been filled to the present day by recounting the story.”30 Lawrence Cunningham, in his biography of Francis, notes that this story may have added to the perception - as did the Book of Conformities written shortly after the Fioretti - of Francis as the Alter Christus.31 He writes, “behind the charming folktale… may well be a complex theological observation about Francis as an imitator of Christ and Francis as a preacher of peace and reconciliation.32

Placing the Text Within the Christian Tradition
What literary genre might the story be classified as? It contains an abundance of animal symbolism - but unlike fairytales and myths, it never speaks, although its gestures are anthropomorphic. Thus, it is part folklore in one sense, but it also contains an allegorical sermon, so the text could be classified as one long allegorical lesson. Bearing this in mind, how does this story compare to other writings in the Early Documents or other medieval sources? To begin with, the earliest reference to Francis and reconciliation between a town and a wolf appears as an exemplum preached in Paris by an unknown Franciscan on October 8, 1273.33 Then, sometime after 1283, we find another reference:
He makes his way to Greccio… A taming effect on wild beasts even in their savage state / Had Francis’ power. Indeed when, playing havoc with animals / And humans, the hostile ferocity of wolves harassed / Greccio’s inhabitants, it died down, checked through his prayers, / One wolf in particular through his agency, we are told, / Became a mild creature and with a village was reconciled.34
These were both written prior to both the Actus and the Fioretti, demonstrating a pre-existent tradition of this encounter. In the latter part of the 13th century, the Passion of San Verecundo described Francis passing by Greccio where peasants warned him about ferocious wolves, but Francis continues on his way without any encounters.35 In the Sacred Exchange, Lady Poverty says that her rival put “on a lamb’s clothing [and] hid the voracity of a wolf with the cunning of a fox.”36 In the Legend of St. Clare and the Versified Life of St. Clare there are two stories concerning wolves, one in which a mother prays to St. Clare and the wolf returns her baby, and in the second, a woman who is being dragged away by a wolf prays to St. Clare and is then let go.37

There is a local legend is the she-wolf of Alessandria, who, after going through a similar agreement with the townspeople to stop terrorizing them, let a young boy ride on its back.38 This was used in a later children’s book about the wolf of Gubbio rather than the she-wolf of Alessandria; we read, “[the wolf] went about the town like a big dog, playing with children and even letting the little ones ride on his back.”39 Another local legend at Lugnano near Lazio, that while preaching, Francis commanded a duck to “rescue a child that had been carried off by a wolf.”40 There are several other references to wolves throughout the Early Documents.41 One wonders how much, if any, influence these stories had on the story of the wolf of Gubbio. We also have an abundance of stories where Francis interacts with animals and nature. Thomas of Celano writes, “He calls all animals by a fraternal name, although, among all kinds of beasts, he especially loves the meek.”42 Elsewhere we read of Francis leaving a piece of the garden untouched for wild plants, Francis preaching to birds, and writing his famous Canticle of Creatures.43

The early Franciscans may have had one way of approaching wolves, but what about their contemporaries, or those who came before Francis and Clare? Consider the medieval Bestiary, a compilation of allegories and beliefs on animals of the time. According to a Bestiary written around the time of Francis, “The Latin word for wolf comes from the Greek; ‘lupus’ in Latin is ‘likos’ in Greek, which derives from their word for biting, because wolves kill everything when they find they are ravenous…. The wolf is a ravenous beast, and thirsts for blood…. It is said to live sometimes on prey, sometimes on earth, and occasionally on wind.”44 It also says, “The wolf is the devil, who… continually prowls round the… the Church’s believers, to kill their souls and to corrupt them. The fact that it only gives birth in May when it thunders reminds us of the devil, who fell from heaven in the first flush of his pride.”45 The text finally concludes, “What can we mean by the Wolf except the Devil?”46

Indeed, throughout the Middle Ages, wolves were thought to “be in league with the forces of evil, many legends connected the wolf with Satan and the dark powers of the supernatural world.”47 Equating a wolf to the Devil or to evil and sin was not a new, medieval invention. For the early Christian symbolists in Rome, wolves were evil, and represented different kinds of vices. The wolves of pagan Rome - in particular the female wolf - was a symbol for prostitution.48 The only she-wolf recognized by Christians was the ancient Roman story of the twins Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf.49 The Sabine tribe in ancient Italy originally had a cult to the wolf, but when the Lombards invaded, their cultural hatred of wolves entered the Italian communities.50

In his Chronicles, the Franciscan Salimbene (1221-1288), wolves were used as a literary device, a symbol for the wilderness and for destruction within cities and in times of war. We find wolves reported as the Siege of Parma,51 wolves reported near the convent in Pisa as well as other convents,52 the threat of wolves near the lagoons of the Venetian Sea,53 and elsewhere wolves “came into the cities by night, and by day many were taken and hanged in public squares,”54 breaking through walls and strangling children in their cradles.55 Looking farther back in European history, Bishop Prudentius of Troyes (d.861) described a wolf attack in western Gaul, and described a wolf who came in while a priest was celebrating Mass, rushed about then disappeared.56 Wolf attacks are also found in the Ten Books of History (590 CE) written by Gregory of Tours, who wrote that, “Vienne was shaken by frequent earthquakes and savage packs of wolves and stags came in through the gates and ranged through the entire city.”57 He also describes an earthquake in Angers about 80 years later, which let wolves into the city.58 The first wolf attack described by Gregory only ended when the Bishop of Vienne prayed for God’s mercy on the sinful Christians.59 Centuries prior, the Scriptures described this kind of divine punishment for improper worship of creation.60 These records served as pastoral warnings and calls to repentance, just as Francis’ sermon. Centuries later, the Malleus Maleficarum (1487) stated that wolves were either agents of God sent to punish the wicked, or agents of Satan, sent with God's blessing to test the faith of believers.61

Wolves and other animals came to be associated with saints throughout the hagiographical tradition. A 9th century manuscript has an illustration of Edmund the Martyr’s severed head being guarded by a wolf.62 The 10th century French saint Odo of Cluny was rescued by a wolf when he was attacked by foxes.63 Stories of saints commanding a creature “in the name of God” were not uncommon, too.64 Centuries before Francis, on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland, St. Colomba commanded the monster of the Loch away from a swimmer. Celtic hagiography has an abundance of these encounters, and also contain prayers recognizing the beauty of God in creation, as Francis did in his Canticle. Some of these stories depict the restoration of an Edenic-like relationship between saints and animals, even wild animals.65 Thus, even the 6th century Irish bishop, St. Colman, was “awakened by a cock each morning for his Vigils; a mouse would scurry about him to keep jim from falling asleep at his prayers; and a fly would mark the spot on his psalter he was to read from that day.”66 We also see encounters between St. Ambrose and bees as well as St. Martin of Tours and a goose (4th century), St. Hormisdas and camels (5th century), St. Brigid and cows (5th-6th century), St. Kevin and otters (6th century), St. Brendan and a whale (6th-7th century), St. Giles the hermit and a doe (7th-8th century), who also had wolves come to his hut in the forest, St. Hubert and a stag (7th - 8th century), St. Hugh and a swan (12th century), and St. Notburga and pigs (13th-14th century).67 

In the 4th century, a poor woman whose pig was stolen by a wolf came to St. Blaise. He went to the edge of the forest, called out to the wolf, and the wolf returned the pig unharmed. The wolf licked his hands, and returned to the forest.68 The 5th century bishop St. Cioran had several animals come to visit his cell, including a wolf.69 The 6th century Irish Bishop St. Ailbe was left in the forest as an infant to be eaten by wolves, but instead, as with Romulus and Remus he is suckled by a she-wolf.70 Years later, after he had become bishop, “an old she-wolf, pursued by a hunting party, fled to the Bishop and laid her head upon his breast. Ailbe protected his old foster-mother, and every day thereafter she and her little ones came to take their food in his hall.”71 A recent version of the Gubbio story by Dario Fo has a similar conclusion to this legend, in which - after making peace between the wolf and the people of Gubbio - the wolf later saves Francis from vicious dogs sent by Celestian monks.73 He also shares the legend told by Gregory the Great, in which King Totila found Bishop Cerbonius giving shelter to imperial soldiers. Cerbonius is condemned to be devoured by a bear, but as it rushed toward him, “suddenly abandoning his ferocity, bowed his neck, lowered his head in humble submission, and began to lick the bishop’s feet…. elsewhere… a monk on good terms with a bear calls him Brother.”74 These are just a few of the parallel tales from animal folklore.

Was the “Wolf” of Gubbio Actually a Man?
Could the wolf of Gubbio actually be a symbol for a historical encounter between Francis and a robber or banished citizen? Arthur Livingston, in his introduction to the 1930s translation of the Fioretti writes, “And we have said nothing about Frate Lupo! There are those who say he was a man, perhaps a bandit by that name. Anyone who can read the Little Flowers without understanding that Frate Lupo was a wolf, will, like those who cannot smile, have read them in vain!”75 The question matters to both historians as well as those who wish to use this story as a model for restorative justice between persons. In the Earlier Rule of 1221 we read, “Whoever comes them, friend or foe, thief or robber, let them be received with kindness.”76 This approach is clearly seen in the encounter. There is a precedent in Christian and Franciscan tradition for comparing men to wolves metaphorically. The patriarch Benjamin is compared to a ravenous wolf,77 Jesus spoke of false prophets as ravenous wolves and told his disciples he was sending them like sheep among wolves - a text which Francis quoted to a companion,78 Thomas of Celano spoke of Francis’ father rushing at him like a wolf, and St. Bonaventure writes that the Saracens seized Francis like wolves among sheep.79

Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittorina (Wikimapia)
Elsewhere in the Fioretti is the story of Brother Angelo and three robbers who live in the forest near the brothers who one day try to rob the friars.80 Angelo rejects them, but Francis is upset when he returns and finds out. They rob and kill because they are hungry, Francis says, and makes Angelo bring them food and reconcile with them. A similar story or earlier version appears in the Assisi Compilation 115, written between 1240-1260. In it, robbers come to the hermitage of Monte Casale to “ask the brothers for bread,” they often “hid in the thick forest of that region… to rob travelers on the streets and footpaths.” The brothers admonished them to convert to penance, and finally, as in Gubbio, Francis arrived, and instructed the brothers to invite the robbers to eat, as they were “dying of hunger.” But first, he told them, “make them promise you that they will not strike anyone or injure another person,” which they agree to, convert and do penance.81 There are also number of other references to literal and metaphorical bandits, robbers, brigands and thieves throughout the Early Documents.82 These references may lend credence to this veiled or symbolic language for the wolf. More pointedly, around 350 CE, the first bishop of the Goths used the term wolf for “any man who had committed a capital crime.”83

Although fictional, the 1962 novel Saint Francis by Nikos Kazantzakis gives us a way of seeing how the wolf as an image for a bandit or robber could have actually played out. In the novel, the wolf of Gubbio is mentioned in passing,84 but the figure of the “wolf” shows up with a new and extended role later in the novel. He is presented as “Captain Wolf, the bandit chief,” who had “his hideaway at the summit” at Mt. Alvernia, instead of Gubbio.85 After Francis goes up to speak with him, because he believes - just as in the wolf of Gubbio story, that “he must be dying of hunger”86 - “Captain Wolf” becomes “Brother Lamb.”87 Francis notices a silver amulet around his neck, which says “Enemy of God and Man,” and after he crushes it, says that he must make a new one saying, “Friend of God and Man.”88 He decides to stay at the foot of Alvernia to guard and protect the brothers, and frequently brings them food.

He later accompanies Leo and Francis, defending Francis from townspeople, begging for alms, and journeying with them. Before his death, Francis also sees again Brother Lamb, the former Captain Wolf who brings Francis figs and grapes, and asks for forgiveness for his sins. With his last words in the novel, he points out to Francis that the food was not stolen - and thus, Captain Wolf, the chief bandit of Alvernia, becomes the gentle Brother Lamb, no longer a bandit and no longer feared. Just as in the wolf of Gubbio story, the wolf has become the lamb. Certainly, there are many differences between this Captain Wolf and the Wolf of Gubbio, but we may see why scholars could find the theory of the wolf as a bandit to fit with the Fioretti’s narrative.

One thing worth noting from Kazantzakis’ story is the silver amulet that Captain Wolf wears, which as he says are a reminder of “Old sins.”89 This has some basis in actual history, relevant for our purposes. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, caput gerat lupinum is a Latin phrase meaning “let him bear the head of a wolf” or “wolf’s head,” which is an “outlawed felon considered a pariah - a lone wolf - open to attack by anyone.”90 In fact, one source says that “It is the right and duty of every man to pursue him, to hunt him down like a wild beast and slay him; for a wild beast he is; not merely is a ‘friend less man,’ he is a wolf.”91 The term was used as early as c.1000 CE in the Laws of Edward the Confessor, which that these outlaws had to wear a wolf mask - something also found centuries prior in the laws of the Hittites (1650-1100 BC).92 As these criminals were driven into the wilderness, an “association of the wolf, outlaw and wilderness became more literal in later beliefs in werewolves (from the Old English wer-wulf, ‘man-wolf’).”93 While most of these cases happen in England, and also in France, we do see in Bergamo, Italy - much closer to Gubbio than England - that “the magistrate responsible for the formal procedure of outlawing a malefactor had as his emblem a wolf’s head.”94

A number of scholars interpret the wolf in various, yet similar, ways. One medieval commentator on this story believed that the wolf was a symbol of the Italian people.95 Paul Sabatier wrote that “The famous episode of the wolf of Gubbio [is]… the third state of the story of the robbers of Monte Casale mingled with a legend of the Verna.”96 Joergensen believed that there was a parallel between St. Anthony and the tyrant of Ezzelino, but he did not offer any reason why this peace-pact would be told in veiled form.97 Andre Vauchez noted the belief of some historians, that “the wolf was in fact an outlaw lord of the contado who was terrorizing the Umbrian town. Francis resolved the conflict by negotiating the wolf’s right to reside in the town and, probably, to receive financial reimbursement, since according to the legend, the wolf was maintained to the end of his life at the expense of the commune.”98 One scholar wrote that the Fioretti’s description of the wolf “ is hardly accurate natural history. Unless rabid or cornered, wolves rarely attack people and are no match for an armed adult who knows how to use a weapon.”99

Was the Wolf of Gubbio Really a Wolf?
While some may be convinced by the theory that the wolf was really a man, others still hold to the idea that the wolf was in fact a wolf. If the authors of the Actus and Fioretti had intended for the wolf to be a robber, or if it really was a robber, the biographers were “candid enough in speaking of the saint’s encounters with robbers” elsewhere in the Early Documents.100 Further, in early depictions of the encounter, the wolf is as expected depicted as a wolf, and not a man.101 The behavior of the wolf is sometimes pointed to as being not wolf-like, and while on one level the story may have exaggerated the interactions and gestures of the wolf, Michael Fox points out that “Having spent some years studying captive and human-raised wolves… That an aged and hungry wolf could develop an attachment to a fearless and caring human is not beyond the realm of possibility.”102 The behavior of this wolf also matches that of a, older, lone wolf who has been separated or lives apart from its wolf pack, and thus is often more hungry and thereby more aggressive in obtaining its food. We see this behavior in the wolf of Gubbio. Placing its paw into the hand of Francis is also not unrealistic, as we see other canines doing this even today. Again, the gestures of the wolf may have been exaggerated and mythologized, but this does not mean that at its core, the wolf of Gubbio was not a real wolf troubling the townspeople.

To add to the idea that the wolf was really a wolf, you will often hear discussion of a skull or even a full skeleton of a wolf being dug up beneath the traditional church near where the encounter took place. In fact, several sources claim something along the lines of “In 1872 the skeleton of a wolf was dug up in Gubbio, under the chapel of San Francesco della Pace.”103 Elsewhere we read, “In the year 1873, when workers in the town of Gubbio were repairing a chapel dedicated to St. Francis, they raised up one of the flagstones of the floor. Buried beneath it they discovered the skull of a large wolf.”104 This usually “seals the deal,” so to speak, and is cited as evidence that the wolf in the story really was a wolf. Unfortunately, as far as proof for this theory, the evidence may not be as compelling as one may be led to believe. First of all, which year was it? 1872 or 1873? Second of all, was a skull discovered, or a full skeleton? According to Armstrong, “A canon of the church claimed to have been shown the skull by the workman who uncovered it and told an English visitor that it had passed into the possession of a man living not far away, but nobody took the time to verify the tale, retrieve the relic, or ascertain whether it was a wolf’s skull rather than a dog’s skull… In later accounts the find became magnified into the skeleton of the animal.”105

Certainly, it is possible that what was discovered was, in fact, the skull of a wolf, near the site where the story in the Fioretti is said to have taken place. Even so, we would have no way of knowing if it was simply added to the Church later on, or if it was in fact from that time period, and even if it was, if it was simply one of a number of wolves in the area or that specific wolf. What we do know is that there are a number of reports of wolves throughout the Early Documents, including in the area around Gubbio, we know that the fear of wolves was prominent at that time, we know that the story of a wolf came to be associated with that town, and in the paintings as well as documents about the story, the figure is always imaged as a wolf. Admittedly, some Medieval readers could have seen the wolf as a symbol or image of a bandit-thief, just as in England and France, and perhaps this was the intention of the author. But as the story has come to us, the figure is presented as a wolf, one which figuratively becomes a lamb in foreshadowing of the prophet Isaiah’s promise.

In the end, does it really matter, in one sense, if the “wolf of Gubbio” was actually a wolf, or if it was a person? Perhaps Livingston was right when he said that those who “read the Little Flowers without understanding that Frate Lupo was a wolf, will, like those who cannot smile, have read them in vain!”106 What matters for our purposes is how the author of the Fioretti intended the story to be read, and how this story can be appropriated to our 21st century world as Franciscans today.

Responding to the Text in the 21st Century
The story of Francis and the wolf has been appropriated in a number of ways, interpreted through different forms of media, and continues to be one of the more well known stories from the Franciscan tradition. The story appears in children’s books, in Franciscan novels and films,107 as a University icon, and elsewhere. How might we use this text in introducing others to Francis, his theological vision, and how might it speak to our lives today? One of the ways that Franciscans use the story today is in demonstrating Care for Creation - especially for other animals - which Pope Francis calls us to in his encyclical, Laudato Si. Consider that Francis is the patron saint of ecology. The root of the word ecology, eco-, comes from the Greek oikos, which means “house”; ecology means “study of the house.”108 

When Francis started his ministry he heard, “go, rebuild by house,” which became much larger for Franciscans - it became, “Go, rebuild my oikos; as you see, it is all being destroyed.”109 The Western mindset has been to “civilize” the wild world, and “tame it,” as we see when this story is labeled as Francis “taming” the wolf of Gubbio. But Francis realized, centuries before the “Enlightenment,” that the world is our oikos.110 However we chose to interpret the central figure of the wolf - man or animal - the lesson we reach is the same, as Andre Vauchez points out: “between the human person and the animal, as in relationships between human beings, exclusion is at the origin of violence, whereas a fraternal and welcoming attitude… prompts that individual to make peace.”111

St. Francis and the Wolf at the St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, PA
Regardless of how we interpret the wolf of Gubbio, it is seen either way as an outsider, and Francis knew what this felt like. In The Anonymous of Perugia 23 we read, “people considered them most despicable; that is why they nonchalantly and brazenly persecuted them as if they were criminals.”112 By embracing the marginalized wolf, Francis models how we ought to treat others - our family, the “lepers” of our society, our friends, etc. In fact, Francis is presented as the gentle lamb that calms and tames the wild wolf.113 According to the Latin texts of the Early Documents, we find lupum, lupo, luporum, lupus or lupinam used for wolf/wolves.114 But when we look at the Italian in the Fioretti, we find the phrase Frate lupo. In calling the wolf Frate lupo, Francis “substitutes a religious kinship for the warlike posture of the city. He speaks to the wolf as an equal (brother), perhaps even as a potential Friar Minor as he uses the word frate, not fratello.”115 Elsewhere in the Fioretti, Brother Giles says that “the true religious are like unto wolves for they seldom issue forth to return to their hiding-place without much converse or dwelling with men.”116

Jean-Francois Godet-Calogeras presents a Franciscan model for peacemaking which flows out of this story. He writes that when we face a conflict, we must first reach out to get involved instead of condemning the person; he notes that Francis “refused to condemn and demonize the wolf before meeting it.”117 The second piece of Franciscan peacemaking is to go unarmed, and recognize that often conflicts will arise from situations that are unjust, which must be called out and changed.118 Francis went unarmed, as “for him the animal is not identified with warfare and death.”119 Once Francis addressed the cause of the wolf’s violence - its hunger - it was able to change this. Justice meant that the townspeople and the wolf both had the right to eat, and the townspeople could make peace once there was justice. In order to obtain peace, there had to be a change in the structure of Gubbio’s society, that is, in their relationship with the wolf. Without this change, without justice, the cycle of mutual violence and fear would have carried on.

The famous existentialist Albert Camus once wrote that the great challenge for us today was to be neither the victim nor the executioner.120 By the time Francis came on the scene, the townspeople and the wolf had taken on both roles, so Francis took the Third Way, and crossed “from one social setting to another in order to heal both…. Francis’s risky action - his form of nonviolent intervention - subverts the perspectives of both parties… revealing the ‘other’ as a both wounded and sacred, not simply destructive.”121 He broke the cycle of violence by recognizing the wolf fraternally in order to underscore the oneness, he named the violence done by the wolf, he analyzed the root cause of his violence, and proposed a peace-pact that met the desires of both parties and left them in a mutually-beneficial relationship.122 Indeed, between people but also with other creatures, we must try to develop nonviolent relationships by refusing to participate in the domination and aggression.123

Surely, this story and its message of nonviolence, reconciliation and peacemaking left an impression on the town of Gubbio, because “in the 1970s Gubbio declared itself a ‘nuclear-free zone’ and its city officials have been active in many campaigns for peace.”124 The wolf of Gubbio has also been used as an image or a message in various Franciscan ministries. In the Santa Barbara Province of Southern California, Fr. Louis Vitale, OFM began the Gubbio Project, inviting the homeless off the streets to sleep in the pews of the church at St. Boniface. Also, in Philadelphia, a Franciscan soup kitchen known as the St. Francis Inn feeds hundreds of people every day in one of the neighborhoods known for drugs, alcohol and other issues associated with poverty and homelessness. On the wall outside is an image of Francis, who is radiating with the presence of peace, unity and care, surrounded by birds, nature and warmth. He is reaching out to the wolf, who is standing on a street corner surrounded by a chalk outline, a syringe, a packets of drugs, cash, and alcohol. This powerful image, shows the radical message of the gospel entering into a dialogue and intentional transformation of and with the marginalized and oppressed.

Looking Forward
In Francis and the Wolf, a children’s book written by Candice Chaloupka,125 at the conclusion of the story we read, “’So, Leo, what did you learn?’ Francis asked. Leo thought for a moment, then said, ‘Peace must be worked on again and again.’ Francis smiled… and the two friends went on their merry way! ‘What do you do to make peace with others?’” While we may struggle with the historicity of the story, whether or not the wolf was real, if the author intended the wolf to be a symbol for a bandit or robber, whether or not the skull was of the wolf of Gubbio or not, the question “What do you do to make peace with others?” gets at the real heart of this story. Why read this story? We continue to read this story not just for its medieval charm but because for us it is a forma et exemplum - a model and example, just as Francis shared at the end of his life that he hoped to be.126 It is more useful, and more important to our social reality today to discover why this story has become such a well known story in folklore rather than some of the historical questions that it raises. This story gives not only Franciscans, not only Catholics, not only Christians but everyone a model and inspiration for how to resolve conflicts and give us an idea for what the say to the “wolves” and the “townspeople” of today.127

The figure of the wolf - real or not, wolf or man - also shows us what it means to be human. In their introduction to the Fioretti, Robert Hopcke and Paul Schwartz point out, “Whatever any of us might read into the figure of the wolf - innate human aggressiveness, selfishness, our hopeless propensity to violence, inability to love neighbor as oneself, mimetic rivalry - what is indisputable is what Francis reveals to the townspeople and to us: that compassion requires courage for it to become an agent of true transformation, and where courage and compassion are brought to bear, defensiveness, poverty, and enmity can be turned into cooperation, abundance and familiarity.”128 As St. Ambrose had put it in his Hexaemeron, an important source for the bestiary text, ‘we cannot fully understand ourselves unless we first know about the nature of all the animals.”129 Perhaps one day, we will learn how to live in peace with one another, then the day will come - as prefigured by the Poverello of Assisi and Frate Lupe of Gubbio - when the wolf will lie down with the lamb.

1 Isaiah 11:6-7, 9 (NASB).
2 Barcia, Daniel F., OFM. "The Birds Preach Back." The Way of St. Francis, Sept. & oct. 2011, 4-15.
3 FA:ED III “Introduction to The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Brothers and The Little Flowers”. 432.
4 Heywood, William. Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi. New York, NY: Cosimo Classics, 2007, xxix-xxxi.
5 Gemelli, Agostino, OFM. The Message of St. Francis. Translated by Paul J. Oligny, OFM. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1964, 116.
6 FA:ED III “Introduction to The Deeds of Blessed Francis…”
7 They “divide themselves into two parts, the first comprising Chapters I.-XL., which are concerned with St. Francis and his first companions; the second comprising Chapters XLI.-LIII., which are concerned with the brethren of the March of Ancona” (Heywood xxix).
8 Hopcke, Robert H., and Paul A. Schwartz. Little Flowers of Francis of Assisi: A New Translation. Boston: New Seeds Books, 2006, xx-xxi. 9 Gemelli, The Message of Saint Francis, 115.; see also Gardner, Edmund G. "The ‘Little Flowers of Saint Francis'." In Saint Francis of Assisi 1226-1926: Essays in Commemoration, by Walter W. Seton, 97. London: University of London Press, 1926.
10 Godet-Calogeras, Jean-François. "More than a Legend: The Wolf of Gubbio." The Cord: A Franciscan Spiritual Review, Nov. & dec. 2002, 260.
11 “Gubbio”. In Kleinhenz, Christopher. Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia A-K. New York: Routledge, 2003, 466.
12 Francke, Linda Bird. On the Road With Francis of Assisi, New York, Random House, 2006, 50.
13 Godet-Calogeras, “More Than a Legend,” 256.; Some believe this story is actually set around 1207 (Passarello, Elena. Animals Strike Curious Poses, Louisville: Sarabande Books, 2017, 21.)
14 FA:ED I 1C 195; LJS 11; VL 4.115-118.; FA:ED II LMj 6.539; Bartholomew of Trent (1240-1245) 782
15 FA:ED I LCh 10.323.; VL 100-105a.
16 FA:ED I 1C 240; LJS 48.403; VL 100-105a; FA:ED II 3C XVII.177.
17 FA:ED I 1C 300; FA:ED II 3C XVII.167; VL 100-105a; Bartholomew of Trent (1240-1245) 782; A Book of Praises of Saint Francis by Bernard of Besse (1227-1283), XI.I.6.
18 FA:ED I VL 100-105a.
19 FA:ED I 1C 304; BoP by Bernard of Besse, XI.IV.2; FA:ED II 3C 71.432.
20 FA:ED I 1C 301; BoP by Bernard of Besse, XI.II.8; FA:ED II VL 137.
21 FA:ED I 1C Miracles 132; BoP by Bernard of Besse (1277-1283), XI.I; FA:ED II 3C XVII.165.
22 FA:ED II LMj Miracles 2.674.
23 FA:ED II 2C LXXVII.111; LMj VIII.6.
24 Especially in the newly Rediscovered Life 7, 44, M7, M10, M24, M52. These miracles were clearly important for Thomas of Celano to include in all of his writings about Francis (Dalarun, Jacques, The Rediscovered Life of St. Francis of Assisi.Trans. Timothy J. Johnson, St. Bonaventure: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2016).
25 Various translations of the Fioretti say that Francis “was living,” “dwelt in” or “lived” in the city of Gubbio. Could he have performed some of the miracles while “living” there? How long did he “live there?” What do the sources mean when they say he “lived” there? There was an early Franciscan settlement there, so perhaps Francis was visiting the brothers there at that time.
26 Freeman, Gerard Pieter. "St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio." Translated by Timothy Gottschalk, OFM and Ignatius McCormick, OFM. Greyfriars Review, 1993, 304.
27 Ibid., 315.
28 FA:ED II AC 74; LMj VIII.11.
29 See also FA:ED I 1Frg 59-66.
30 Freeman, “St. Francis”, 319.
31 Cunningham, Lawrence. Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel Life, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2004, 96.; in 1926, Pope Pius XI also believed that Francis was rightly considered an Alter Christus for presenting Christ to the world.
32 Ibid.
33 See FA:ED III Deeds 23; Fioretti 21. The preacher begins with the word legimus (“we have read”), implying that he was referring to an existing text. He also stresses the wolf’s penance (Bériou, Nicole. “La reportation des sermons parisiens à la fi n du XIIIe siècle,” in Dal pulpito alla navata: La predicazione medievale nella sua recezione da parte degli ascoltatori, Florence, 1989, 91-92.)
34 FA:ED III The Versified Life of Saint Francis: Additions, Amplifications by Henri D’Avranches 104, written after 1283. A question this raises for us - if this is the same story, was the story really in Gubbio, or was it in Greccio? Perhaps the copyists or those who wrote the Actus and consequently the Fioretti made a scribal error, and the original place was actually Greccio, not Gubbio. Perhaps this story should actually be titled “Francis of Assisi and the Wolf of Greccio.” In the Assisi Compilation written between 1244-1260 (74.177), in Greccio we read that “Huge wolves would eat people,” which may lend credence to the possibility of the story originally being set in Greccio. The brothers had an early settlement in Greccio, so Francis visiting there makes sense.
35 FA:ED II Passion of San Verecondo. c.1250-70. 807.; “Passio sancti Verecundi,” in Saint François d’Assise: Documents, écrits et premières biographies, 1436.
36 FA:ED I ScEx 38.
37 CA:ED I LCl XL, VL XLVII-XLVIII; Armstrong, Edward A. Francis the Nature Mystic: The Derivation and Significance of the Nature Stories in the Franciscan Legend. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1973, 212.
38 Brown, Raphael. Fifty Animal Stories of Saint Francis: as told by his companions - Transcribed from the Early Christian Chronicles, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1958, 74.; This is commemorated by a sculpture in the Cathedral of Alessandria showing a boy riding a wolf with a Latin inscription mentioning the “Assisian” (Brown 75).
39 Arundel OFM, Eusebius. Stories about Saint Francis Retold from the “Little Flowers”: Book Three Marvelous Happenings. Paterson: St. Anthony’s Guild. 1948. 23. Print.
40 Goad, Harold E. “The Dilemma of St. Francis and the Two Traditions”. In Seton, Saint Francis of Assisi 1226-1926, 97.; see also Brown, 73.
41 Tree of the Crucified Christ 5.3.25; Book of Chronicles 1 and elsewhere.
42 FA:ED I 1st Celano XXIX.80-81.; Thomas writes of Francis encountering worms, providing honey for bees, and preaching to flowers.
43 FA:ED I 1st Celano XXI; FA:ED II AC 88.
44 Barber, Richard. Bestiary: Being An English Version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford M.S. Bodley 764, Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1992, 69.
45 Ibid., 71.
46 White, T.H. The Book of Beasts: Being A Translation from A Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century, New York: Dover Publications, 1960, 59-60.
47 Wolf Web Solutions. "Wolf History." Wolf Web. 1999.
48 "Italian Wolf." Understanding Italy. 2010.
49 Charbonneau-Lassay, Louis. Le Bestiare du Christ, 1940. Trans. by D.M. Dooling as The Bestiary of Christ, New York: Arkana Books, 1991, 141-142.)
50 "Italian Wolf".
51 Coulton, GG. From St. Francis to Dante: Translations from the Chronicle of the Franciscan Salimbene, 2nd ed., London: Barnicott and Pearce Printers, 1907, 120.
52 Ibid., 171, 217.
53 Ibid., 249.
54 Ibid., 39.
55 Ibid., 60.
56 In 846 and 858 CE (The Annals of St. Bertin, Trans. J.L. Nelson, Manchester, 1991, 62 & 86.)
57 Gregory of Tours. The History of the Franks 2.34. In Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks, Trans. L. Thorpe, London, 1974, 148.; This happened around 500 CE.
58 Ibid., 350.
59 Ibid.
60 See the Wisdom of Solomon, 11.15-17; Both of these incidents were seen as a divine punishment for worship of creation rather than the Creator, just as Frothar of Toul wrote to a colleague that when the wolves around Toul got out of hand, it was a sign of God’s judgment (La correspondence d’un évêque carolingien, Trans. Fr. M. Parisse, Paris, 1998.; Frothaire de Toul (ca 813-847).).
61 Lopez, Barry. Of wolves and men, New York: Scribner 1978, 205-240.
62 Jones, Lindsay, ed. "Wolf." In Encyclopedia of Religion: Transcendental Meditation-Zwingli Huldrych, 9785. Vol. 14. Thomson-Gale, 2004.
63 Ibid.
64 This is seen in Francis commanding the Wolf of Gubbio “in the name of God,” but also when he preached to the birds, as well as in later Franciscan tradition when St. Anthony preached to the fish, commanding them “in the name of God.”
65 Bartlett, Robert. England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000, 681.
66 Cunningham, “Francis of Assisi,” 97.
67 Kimmel, Eric A. Brother Wolf, Sister Sparrow: Stories about Saints and Animals. New York: Holiday House. 2003. 12-57. Print.
68 Ibid.
69 Cunningham, “Francis of Assisi”, 97.; He also had a boar, badger, fox and deer come to his cell.
70 "St. Ailbe." Catholic Encyclopedia. 2017.
71 Ibid.
72 Fo, Dario. The Holy Jester, London: Beautiful Books, 2009, 30-34.; After making peace between the townspeople and the wolf, Francis departs for a quarry in Stroppiano to get stones to rebuild more churches. The quarrymen tell Francis that they are out of stones, as a recent sidewall on a Celestian monastery in Civitella collapsed during an earthquake, and the Pope allowed them to take stones for a week from the quarry. So Francis goes to the Celestian monastery to beg for stones, and the monks refuse to allow him entrance, and send out their dogs to attack him. As they do so, “Francis sees a black shadow pounce on the mastiffs and hears a wild roaring… the two mastiffs flee” and Francis realizes that it is the wolf from Gubbio, who has come to rescue him.
73 Armstrong, Edward A. Francis the Nature Mystic: The Derivation and Significance of the Nature Stories in the Franciscan Legend. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1973, 210.; “we may be confident that the Franciscan story is a late version of the tale told in the desert and brought to Europe. Probably the inspiration was direct, for the Lives of the Desert were favourite reading in the thirteenth-fourteenth-century Italy, and the writings of Suplicius Severus, to whom a traveler from Egypt, Postumianus, told a number of desert stories on arriving in Gaul, were known to the biographers of Saint Francis” (Armstrong 210).
74 Ibid., 213.
75 Livingston, Arthur. The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, New York: Heritage Press, 1965, 8.
76 FA:ED I Earlier Rule VII.14 (emphasis mine); cf. 1 Fragments 68.
77 Genesis 49:27.
78 Matthew 7:15, 10:16; 2 Celano 13.; Scripture has thirteen references to wolves, typically used as a metaphor. In the New Testament, Jesus uses wolves to describe the dangers that his followers would face if they follow him. Jesus is seen as the shepherd protecting Christians - the flock - from the enemy, depicted as a wolf. This pastoral imagery would have been very familiar to his 1st century Jewish audience, many of whom were shepherds.
79 FA:ED I 1C 12; FA:ED II LTC 17; LMj IX.8.
80 Fioretti 26.
81 This story is also found in 1MP 43 and 2MP III.66.
82 FA:ED I ER VII.14, VIII.7; 1C VII.16, XIX.52, LCh I.3; JS II.10; VL II.4, III.9, IV.33, 111, V.36, 208, JdV Srm1 5 ; FA:ED II AC:10, 15, 32; 2C LIV.87, LXV.99, XCVI.133; LMj 6.3; LMn I.8; 1-4 Srm pp.720, 752; Bartholomew of Trent p.782; Jacopo de Voragine 7; Eudes of Chateauroux II.; FA:ED III WSF 1; TL V.III.42, 52; 1MP 13; 2MP I.12, II.30, III.45; Angelo Clareno, Exposition of the Rule of the Lesser Brothers V; CA:ED VL VI.5.
83 Jones, “Wolf”, 9784.
84 Kazantzakis, Nikos. Saint Francis, Loyola Classics, 2005, 224. At a later point in the novel, Francis and Leo encounter a physical wolf, as they were beneath the oaks at Alvernia. Francis approaches him - and calls him “Brother Wolf” - and the text says that the wolf was “famished.” Francis asks it not to interrupt their holy conversation, and the wolf steps aside.
85 Ibid.
86 Ibid., 345.
87 He is also referred to - perhaps to show the development of his character and conversion - at different points again as “Brother Wolf-Lamb,” “Captain Wolf,” or as “Brother Lamb.”
88 Ibid., 348.
89 Ibid.
90 Gardner, Bryan A. Black’s Law Dictionary, St. Paul: Thompson Reuters, 9th ed, 2009, 240.
91 Frederick Pollock & Frederick W. Maitland. The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I, 1899, 449.
92 Jones, “Wolf”, 9784.; The Laws of Edward the Confessor say, “Lupinum enim gerit caput a die utlagationis sue, quod ab Anglis uulfesheued nominatur” (“wolf’s-head I wolf-head, n.” in Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.; Laws of Edward the Confessor iv.)
93 Flight, Tim. “The Wolf Must Be in the Woods”, History Today, 31 May 2017.
94 Armstrong, Francis the Nature Mystic, 201.
95 Cunningham, Saint Francis, 96.
96 Sabatier, Paul. Life of St. Francis, Trans. Louise Seymour Houghton, New York: Scribner Press, 1894, 223.
97 Joergensen, J. Saint Francois de Assise, Trans. T. de Wyezwa, Paris, 1992, 147.
98 Vauchez, André. Saint Francis: The Life and Afterlife of a Medieval Saint, Trans. Michael Cusato, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012, 275-276.; “There was a legal Renaissance document called “an instrument of peace” used “for the reconciliation of warring parties: the savage is tamed by the words of a peacemaker, the aggressor swears an oath not to violate the legal agreement, and there is a public ritual, ordinarily ending with the kiss of peace between the parties in conflict” (Build with Living Stones, St. Bonaventure: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2015, 113.).
99 Bratton, Susan Power. “Oaks, Wolves and Love: Celtic Monks and Northern Forests” In Journal of Forest History, Vol. 33.1, 1989, 19.
100 Armstrong, Francis the Nature Mystic, 202. (See 1 Cel. 16; LMj II.5; Fioretti 26.)
101 In the foreground of The Stigmatization of Saint Francis of Assisi from the 1330s, Neopolitan school, a wolf can be seen. It was painted around the time of the Actus, and prior to the Fioretti. Carl Brandon Strehlke believes that “The curious beast in the Getty’s painting foreground, most likely a wolf, could well refer to this incident or one of the other wolf stories recounted by earlier biographers” (Strehlke, Carl Brandon. “A Celibate Marriage and Franciscan Poverty Reflected in Neapolitan Trecento Diptych”, In J.Paul Getty Museum Journal, Vol. 15, 1987, 89.). We also see a clearer depiction - possibly the earliest direct depiction - of Francis and the wolf of Gubbio as an altarpiece in San Sepolcro, painted between 1437-1444 by Sassetta (“The Wolf of Gubbio: 1437-44, Sassetta”, The National Gallery, 2017. This shows the prominence of an association between Francis and wolves during these periods.
102 Fox, Michael W. St. Francis of Assisi, Animals, and Nature, Washington D.C.: Center for Respect of Life and Environment, 1989, 3-4.
103 House, Adrian. Francis of Assisi, Mahwah: HiddenSpring, 2000, 181.
104 Bedard, Michael and Murray Kimber. The Wolf of Gubbio, Toronto: Stoddart Kids, 2012, 22.
105 Armstrong, Francis the Nature Mystic, 206.
106 Livingston, The Little Flowers, 8.
107 In the 2009 film, Clare and Francis, St. Francis and Brother Illuminato are walking through the woods in the countryside when all of a sudden, a white wolf comes out of the bushes and starts to growl at them both. Francis tells Illuminato to wait for him, and he prays in Latin as Francis approaches the wolf. The wolf bares its teeth at Francis, who continues to bend low and reach out his hand toward the creature. Finally, the wolf settles down, whines and licks Francis’ hand, who then proceeds to pet and play with the wolf, who jumps up on Francis and continues to lick him. Certainly, this brief scene does not directly portray the story as told in the Actus or Fioretti, but it does show the wolf as a totemic animal, and shows the relationship between Francis and nature.
108 Delio O.S.F., Ilia. Keith Douglass Warner, O.F.M. and Pamela Wood. Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1999, 25.
109 Ibid., 41.
110 From the video “The Relevance of the Franciscan Creation - Franciscan Theology of the Environment from Villanova University: Sister Dawn Noethwher presents”. Youtube, 2009.; This is similar to what he says to Lady Poverty in the Sacred Exchange.
111 Vauchez, Francis of Assisi, 275-276.
112 In FA:ED II. 45.; Murray Bodo, in his novel on Francis, speculates that Francis may have realized that this was a lone wolf, not a pack of wolves grouped together, and wonders if Francis “thought of Cain fleeing east of Eden, branded, an outsider, cut off from society” (Bodo, Murray. Francis: The Journey and the Dream Fortieth Anniversary Addition, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2011. 96.).
113 Several of the Early Documents say that after Francis sold most of his father’s cloth, Pietro leaped at Francis “like a wolf after a lamb,” and in a very symbolic and theological sense, when Francis encounters the wolf of Gubbio, his acceptance of the wolf could be interpreted as a kind of reconciliation between himself and his father.
114 See; The Legend of St. Clare uses lupum or lupo for wolf. For “wolves,” the Versified Life of St. Clare uses luporum and lupus for wolf. Thomas of Celano uses lupus. The Legend of the Three Companions uses lupus. The Sacred Exchange uses lupinam.
115 Freeman, “St. Francis”, 309.
116 Fioretti Part IV.11.; Armstrong believes that “his remark gives a clear impression of the normal behaviour of wolves in Italy at that period. If wolves had been a serious, persistent menace he would scarcely have ventured to make such a comparison” (Saint Francis, 213).
117 Godet-Calogeras, “More Than a Legend”, 260.
118 Ibid., 261.
119 Freeman, “St. Francis”, 307. Print.; In his Rule, Francis tells his followers not to bear arms. This has inspired generations of Franciscan non-violent action, and it continues to this day. Secular Franciscans in particular have been known to adhere to this teaching, and refuse to join military or to take up arms against others.
120 Butigan, Ken, Mary Litell OSF, and Louis Vitale OFM. Franciscan Nonviolence: Stories, Reflections, Principles, Practices and Resources, Las Vegas: Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, 2003, 49.
121 Ibid.
122 Ibid.
123 Vauchez, Saint Francis, 275-276.
124 Butigan, Franciscan Nonviolence, 49.
125 Chaloupka, Candice. Francis and the Wolf, Dubuque: BHC Publishing, 2012, 22.
126 Freeman, “St. Francis”, 322.
127 Godet-Calogeras, “More Than a Legend”, 262.
128 Hopcke, Little Flowers, 66.
129 Bartlett, England, 686.