My Psalm 120
Taming the Wild Beast
He was one of hundreds. Born into a wealthy family, he ran around and enjoyed the high life. He thought little of the cost, both monetary and to his body. He cared little for the feelings of others and focused instead on his own pleasure. But even a life of pure leisure can become boring. He sought thrills and excitement so he joined a military group. Playing soldier seemed like fun and he was eager to join in what he expected to be fun. Becoming a prisoner of war, however, was no fun. He spent his days in confinement and used the solitude to talk to the only thing he could – God. Eventually he was released and began a new life, a life he felt he had been told to pursue while a prisoner. At church one Sunday he heard the passage from the book of Matthew, chapter 10, verses 9-10. His life helping the poor was defined and he followed his new calling in living a simple lifestyle for the rest of his life.
Our young man was passionate about his faith and drew others to follow. An order was established not only for men but also for women. He offered help to everyone, turning away no one. Even the lepers found a friendly hug and handshake from this man of faith. It was said that when he spoke, it was so calming that birds would gather, almost as if they themselves were listening. He reminded all, even the birds, to give thanks to God for all their blessings.
One day, entering a town, he found the people petrified. He then saw the source of their fear – a large, snarling wolf. The wolf would start to attack and growl at anyone who started to approach him. Slowly our servant of God, friend of the birds, began speaking to the wolf. Some of the people warned their visitor but he hushed them, reminding them that even the wolf was a creation of God. He continued to talk to the wolf, encouraging him and praising him and gradually was able to move closer. AS he spoke to the wolf, he would make the sign of the cross, blessing the wolf. In his speech he explained to the wolf that there were better ways to acquire food. Within the conversation a deal was offered. The townspeople would feed the wolf if the wolf would stop his attacks against their livestock and themselves. He knelt down by the wolf and offered his hand to it. The wolf in turn put his paw on the knee of the visitor as if to accept the offer. The man of faith then rose and walked through the town with the wolf by his side as if a treasured pet.
Our traveler continued his journey and life’s work but the wolf stayed in the town and was dutifully fed by the townspeople. He became a valued pet, an example of the power of the love of God, until his death at an old age…for a wolf. Saddened by his death, the story of the wolf and the power of love was told and retold for ages and the faith of all lived on as their legacy of devotion to their God and their spiritual visitor that tamed the ferocious beast.
The visitor in our story was born Giovanni Di Pietro di Bernardone. His father gave his a nickname, Francesco. Later the boy decided as a man he would be called Francis. Even later the church gave his the name Saint Francis of Assisi. Patron saint of animals and beasts, Francis began a charitable legacy that the faithful from all types of religions and beliefs have continued to this day. Recognizing that the poor and needy often have no voice, the legacy of Francis, the son of a silk merchant, provides much needed caring and love to those who are disenfranchised.
There are many today who are homeless, both in the country of their birth and because of war. These are the people of Francis’ heart. These are the people who today have no voice. His outreach, to human and animal alike, serves as a lesson to us all that when we help others, we also help ourselves. When we share love and approach life in love, great things can be accomplished.
The story of the wolf is a wonderful image and consider by many to be merely symbolic folklore. The setting was the town of Gubbio, in northeastern Italy, was already old during the Bronze Age. It sits at the base of a small mountain which lent validity to such a story. While most accept that Francis did indeed live there, few really believed the story they had heard as children. His teachings echoed throughout the community of the faithful. ““The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today” was his very own sentiment that best described his own life. Seven hundred years after Francis visited the town of Gubbio, at the very site was the church stood, where a wolf had once sat beside a man, reconstruction in honor of Saint Francis commenced. It was there, in the latter part of the nineteenth century that workers uncovered the skeleton of a centuries-old wolf.
The townspeople stared at the remains and remembered other words Francis spoke: ““All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that [you] have received–only what you have given.”
We, too, have a chance to tame the savage beast. When we approach in faith, great things can be accomplished. To quote St Francis: ““No one is to be called an enemy; all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves.”
My Psalm 120
Prayer of St Francis of Assisi
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
October 4th is Saint Francis Day