Story read at the White Eagle Family Service 8.10.18. Quotes from the medieval book ‘Little Flowers of St. Francis’ ascribed to Brother Ugolino, with story and adaptation by Anikira de francis with animals 1

Once upon a time in the town of Gubbio in Italy lived a little girl called Maria and her brother Paulo. They had a family pet dog called Lorenzo who was good and obedient and liked nothing more than to be thrown a ball to catch and be pampered every now and then. One night they could see the full moon from their window. ‘What a lovely moon’, they told each other. However there was a strange noise coming from outside. Suddenly they could hear their chickens in the garden squawking and clucking and the fluttering sound of wings. This made the children somewhat scared of what might be out there. They quickly told their Mum and Dad and saw that Lorenzo the dog was, for some strange reason howling. They listened again and heard howling coming from outside also. Dad decided to get a closer look. ‘It sounds like a wolf’ he said. ‘'Be careful', said Mum.

Dad went outside only to find the beast had run off. He came quickly indoors catching his breath. ''I think there was a wolf outside, but now it’s time for bed after all that commotion'', said Dad. In the morning the children went outside to play and found that their usual 5 chickens were now down to 4. Maria said, ‘I think the wolf has taken one of our chickens, I can't find it anywhere.’ That day, Dad set to work strengthening the fence where the wolf had got in, and soon, news spread that the wolf had taken more than just chickens away with him. The villagers were up in arms and decided to go and hunt the wolf down, but those who came were met with frightening snarls and sharp teeth, which made everyone scared to go into the woods.

Well it wasn't very long after this that some strangers came to Gubbio. They were kind, gentle people and their leader seemed to have something very special about him. He was concerned for the poor and sick but also seemed to have a special place in his heart for all creatures who would come close to him without any sign of fear. Maria and Paulo were fascinated because he always had small birds perched on his shoulders and they realised that there was some kind of magical understanding between him and the birds.

It wasn’t long before the stranger learnt that people were scared to go outside the town walls. He was warned by the people not to go outside the town gate for fear of the 'wolf.'

However, this man thought he might be able to meet the wolf as he proclaimed God was on his side. Some of his friends walked with him into the woods accompanied by a few peasants, but one by one they left him alone as they were too frightened to go any further. Suddenly the wolf, showing his sharp teeth, came into view. The wolf could hardly believe that the man had no fear and wasn't going to hurt him. The wolf slowed down. ‘Come brother wolf’, said the man, as he made the sign of the cross. ‘In the name of Christ I order you not to hurt anyone. You are forgiven’, and the wolf tucked in his tail and sat down quite calmly. ‘I want to make peace between you and the town of Gubbio. You will no longer harm them.’

He had now made friends with the so called beast. He returned to Gubbio with the wolf behind him. The wolf meekly followed and everyone at the gate was there to witness the miracle. A crowd gathered as the man then asked the wolf to make a pledge by extending his paw and placing it in his hand. He then gave a talk on the love of God, calling them to say sorry for any of their wrong doings. The townsfolk promised to feed the wolf and some were even drawn to make friends with the wolf like Maria, Paulo, their Mum and Dad, and Lorenzo as they looked on as the man petted the wolf. They helped to feed the wolf and nicknamed him Silvio, which translates as ‘forest’. The man called him ‘Brother Wolf’ and told everyone that he was part of the great big family of the Creator.

Maria and Paulo wanted to know how they could attract the birds too. ‘Well’ said Mum ‘we could see about building a bird bath and put out seed for them and, when they feel comfortable being there, you may even have them feeding out of your hand!’ ‘Wow!’ said Maria ‘I want to have a bird sitting on my shoulder, just like Francis!’

Because, of course, the stranger who came to Gubbio was called Francis. He was so special that he was later called St. Francis and the current pope – Pope Francis – chose to take his name. St. Francis loved all God’s creatures and saw them all as brothers and sisters.

He has a special day on which people remember him and the wonderful things he did, which falls on October the 4th. Why don’t you try talking to the animals and birds? You may be amazed at what happens!