I first heard about St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio on a visit to St. Mary of the Angels Monastery in Italy. Our guide told us of the mean wolf that terrorized the small town of Gubbio and caused terror in the villagers. St. Francis, of course, full of spiritual power, confronted the wolf and tamed him. He made a pact with the wolf: the wolf would cease his reign of terror in exchange for the kind admittance and care of the town of Gubbio.
The redemptive aspect of this legend was not lost on me. We are the wolf, or we are the villager, or sometimes we are both. But when we come into contact with God, real reform is possible - probable even.
I have read the words of Jesus, "whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." I can read those words no other way than as a promise. When we come into contact with God, healing follows. Often times it is slow, and we may feel as if we get lost all over again along the way, but the closer we come into contact with God, the looser the knots get.
St. Francis and the Wolf
Brother wolf, thou hast done much evil in this land, destroying and killing the creatures of God without his permission; yea, not animals only hast thou destroyed, but thou hast even dared to devour men, made after the image of God; for which thing thou art worthy of being hanged like a robber and a murderer. All men cry out against thee, the dogs pursue thee, and all the inhabitants of this city are thy enemies; but I will make peace between them and thee, O brother wolf, if so be thou no more offend them, and they shall forgive thee all thy past offences, and neither men nor dogs shall pursue thee any more.
The wolf bowed its head and submitted to Francis, completely at his mercy.
As thou art willing to make this peace, I promise thee that thou shalt be fed every day by the inhabitants of this land so long as thou shalt live among them; thou shalt no longer suffer hunger, as it is hunger which has made thee do so much evil; but if I obtain all this for thee, thou must promise, on thy side, never again to attack any animal or any human being; dost thou make this promise?