August 11, 2023

#08-335: Two Legends of St. Francis

Saint Francis and a Wolf (Wikimedia)

Note: No Christian saint has captured the world's heart like Francis of Assisi. Here are two early legends of the saint's connection to "God's creation."

Get Ready: In most Christian stories, how important is the natural world to the "spiritual interests" of the believer? Why do you think Francis was different?

Francesco Bernardone is better known to the English-speaking world as Saint Francis. Although he was a Roman Catholic Christian, he has been embraced by people of many faiths, not only for his devotion to God but for his simplicity and his radical connections to nature.

Two stories from The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of legends about his life which seems to have been written just a century after Francis's death, illustrate this.

In the first one, he was traveling between two towns when he saw a huge flock of birds in the trees along the road. He told his companions, "Wait for me here, while I go and preach to my little sisters the birds." As he preached, they all listened. He told them their singing was a way of praising God, and in return God had given them all they needed. They did not fly away until he had given them his blessing. 

When he finished, the birds sang in response, then flew off in four directions.

More exciting, perhaps, is the story of how Francis helped the people in the city of Gubbio. A large wolf had appeared in the neighborhood, devouring other animals and even preying on people! They went about armed as if ready for battle, but many were devoured anyway, so that they feared stepping outside of the city walls.

Feeling great compassion for the people, St. Francis resolved to go and meet the wolf. He went alone, leaving behind his fearful brethren, but many of them saw this miracle from a distance: As the wolf ran toward St. Francis, jaws wide open as if to attack, the saint cried out: "Come hither, Brother Wolf; I command you, to harm neither me nor anybody else." The terrible wolf, closing his jaws, stopped running, and lay down at St. Francis's feet as meek as a lamb.

The saint told him: "Brother Wolf, you have done much evil, destroying and killing animals and people. I will make peace between you and them. They will forgive you and even feed you, so you will not be hungry. Do you agree?"

At this the wolf bowed his head and put out his paw to Francis's outstretched hand--and they shook on it. Then the saint and the wolf walked together into the city to share the good news of this truce.

After that, any time the people of Gubbio saw the gentle wolf around town, they were reminded of the saint who had tamed him.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. brethren
  2. companions
  3. devoured
  4. embraced
  5. flock
  6. hither
  7. preying on
  8. radical
  9. simplicity
  10. truce
  1. ate up
  2. fundamental; thorough
  3. large number (of birds)
  4. here
  5. accepted enthusiastically
  6. friends
  7. hunting and killing
  8. brothers, especially religious ones
  9. peace agreement
  10. plainness; naturalness

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 11, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. f; 3. a; 4. e; 5. c; 6. d; 7. g; 8. b; 9. j; 10. i