Sermons

May 30: St. Francis & the Wolf of Gubbio (Trinity B)

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  (Matt 28:16-20).

With this bold command, Matthew concludes that we go into the whole world, teaching, baptizing, all the time reminding us that Jesus is with us always.

Curiously, Matthew’s gospel begins with a long list or genealogy that describes how Jesus was called into being and named Emmanuel or “God with us.”

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday as the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and, most importantly, our unique, integral relationship to all of God’s creation.

Such a force has called all life into being, an act of love itself.

Saint Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis speak to this unique ecology, the relationship of humankind linked to all of God’s creation and creatures.

Several weeks back, you may recall, I mentioned that Saint Francis of Assisi had the habit of speaking to birds and trees. How about wolves?

One of the enduring legends about Saint Francis tells of how he meets a fierce wolf terrorizing the village and killing children while visiting Gubbio.

You find these stories in that little gem of a book, entitled “The Flowers of Saint Francis.” This 14th-century collection was among the first texts published in Italian; and in children’s literature, it functions much like Aesop’s Fables or Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

According to the story, the wolf with his wide-open mouth (Think, Little Red Riding Hood!) sees Francis and readies his attack. Making the sign of the cross, Francis says: “Come here, Brother Wolf. I commend you on behalf of Christ that you do not harm me or anyone else!”

Then “the fearsome wolf closed his mouth and stopped running. Once he heard Francis’ tender voice, the wolf came to him meekly as a lamb and threw itself at the feet of St. Francis.” Good dog! Good wolf!

Here’s the part that I like. Francis then scolds Brother Wolf for destroying and killing God’s creatures.

Francis says: “The whole of the town is complaining about you.” As a result, Francis makes a deal with the wolf, “I want to make peace between you and the people. And so, I promise that I will have food given to you regularly by the people of this town. Brother Wolf, you will no longer suffer hunger. And I want you, Brother Wolf, to promise that you will never harm any human person or animal.” Nicely stated, I think!

In the “Flowers of Saint Francis,” there is a moment when, “The wolf, lifting his right paw, placed it in the hand of St. Francis. Because of this action, there was rejoicing and wonder among all the people of that town. They began to cry to heaven, praising and blessing God who sent Francis to them who, through his merits, had freed them from the jaws of the cruel beast.”

The wolf lived in Gubbio and tamely entered homes, going door to door for his daily food. In bittersweet sentiment, we hear, “Finally after two years Brother Wolf died of old age, at which the citizens grieved very much.” Good dog! Good wolf! Indeed!

Such is the harmony or integral ecology found in a “peaceable kingdom,” one that is meant not only for God and man, rather the very balance and reconciliation between God and the whole of creation, including Brother Wolf!

(For more about “Saint Francis and the Taming of the Wolf,” go to the Franciscan Spirit Blog, and the post by Jack Wintz, OFM where I drew this material.  https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit-blog/st-francis-and-the-taming-of-the-wolf)

To mark the seventh anniversary of his publishing “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis returned to his major project on stating the Church’s position on environmental destruction and ecological-sustainable economy, saying:

“We need a new ecological approach that can transform our way of dwelling in the world, our lifestyles, our relationship with the resources of the Earth and, in general, our way of looking at humanity and of living life.”

How do we accomplish this? He recommends that everyone working together in a more inclusive, fraternal, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Of course, a few Catholics may wonder why the pope is getting into climate change issues and global warming. It’s important to know that our ecological concerns for the planet’s welfare flow from our theology.

According to theologian Walter Grazer, “Catholics see the Trinity as relational and social. And all of creation and life reflects this relational and social notion, so all creatures are intimately linked and share a kinship.”

This theology does not mean diminishing our unique and special role as humans but rather a call for even greater respect, intimacy with nature, and connection to a healthy ecology.

Saint Francis’s “Canticle of the Sun” is recognized as one of the first published literary works in the Umbrian dialect.

Francis prays:

Be praised my Lord, through all your creatures, especially Brother Sun, who brings day and gives light. He is beautiful and radiant.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water, especially she is instrumental and precious and pure. 

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon, Brother Fire, and Mother Earth.

Be praised, those who forgive – for love of you. 

Happy those who endure in peace, for by you Most High, 

They will be crowded.  

 

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

If you’re wondering whether we can ever speak to dogs, this short segment from CBS Sunday Morning prompted my attention and helped spark this homily.

Meet Stella, the dog that talks! Good dog! Good dog!

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