One of the most famous stories of St. Francis is when he tamed the wolf that was terrorizing the people of Gubbio. While St. Francis was staying in the town he learned of a wolf that was not only killing and eating animals, but humans as well. The villagers took up arms and went after it, but those that encountered the wolf perished at its claws and teeth. The people of Gubbio became afraid to leave the city walls.
Francis took pity on the people and decided to go out and confront the ravenous wolf. The people begged him not to risk it, but he insisted that God would protect him. One brave friar and several peasants accompanied Francis outside the city gates. But shortly after the peasant’s fear took over and they refused to go any farther.
Francis and the friar began to walk on when suddenly the wolf, fangs showing, charged out of the woods at the couple. St. Francis made the sign of the cross toward it. The power of God caused the wolf to slow down and to close its mouth.
Francis then called out to the creature: “Come to me, Brother Wolf. In the name of Christ, I order you not to hurt anyone.” At that very moment the wolf lowered its head and lay down at St. Francis’ feet, meek as a lamb.
St. Francis explained to the wolf that he had been terrorizing the village, killing not only animals, but humans who are made in the image of God. “Brother Wolf,” said Francis, “I want to make peace between you and the people of Gubbio. They will harm you no more and you must no longer harm them. All past crimes are to be forgiven.”
The wolf showed its understanding by moving its body and nodding its head. Then to the surprise of the gathering crowd, Francis asked the wolf to make a pledge. St. Francis extended his hand to receive the pledge and the wolf extended its front paw and placed it into the saint’s hand. Then Francis commanded the wolf to follow him into the town to make a peace pact with the villagers. The wolf timidly followed St. Francis.
Once they got to the town square, everyone was there to witness the miracle. With the wolf at his side, Francis gave the town a sermon on the astounding and fearful love of God, calling them to repent from all their sins. Then he offered the villagers peace, on behalf of the wolf. The townspeople loudly promised to feed the wolf. Francis, turning to the wolf, asked if he would live in peace under those terms. The wolf bowed his head and twisted his body in a way that convinced everyone he accepted the pact. Then once again the wolf put its paw in Francis’ hand as a sign of the pact.
From that moment on the people kept the pact they had made. The wolf lived for two years among the townsfolk, going from door to door for food. It hurt no one and no one hurt it, not even the dogs barked at it. Sadness came to Gubbio the day the wolf died of old age. It’s believed that the wolf’s peaceful ways had been a living reminder to the people of the patience, virtues and holiness of St. Francis.