St. Francis, on his way to Gubbio to preach the gospel of Christ one cold winter day, met a group of farmers outside the city gates heavily armed and talking loudly among themselves.
A bit puzzled, he asked, “Where are you going?”
“Brother Francis” they replied, “A huge wolf has been attacking our villagers and terrorizing the countryside. Today we have decided that it is time to get rid of that wolf once and for all.”
Francis, sensing their fear as well as their determination, took pity on them and asked to go with them to find the wolf.
At first reluctant, they said, “Brother Francis, the wolf has already devoured many people and will certainly kill you if you go unarmed.”
But Francis, placing his trust in God, bravely went forth, followed by a few peasants who had not yet lost their courage. Deep in the forest they came upon the wolf’s lair and could see the huge animal in the snow.
Overcome with fear, they said to Francis, “We do not want to go any farther. That wolf is fierce and we might get hurt.”
“Just wait here,” he answered, “until I have a chance to talk to him.”
The wolf, sensing an easy prey, turned on Francis ready to attack. But Francis, making the sign of the cross, ordered it to stop. “Come here, Brother Wolf,” he said, “I order you, in the name of Christ, not to hurt me or anyone else.”
A crowd, having gathered in the distance saw, much to their amazement, that as Francis spoke, the ravenous beast lowered its head and seemed suddenly tame and docile.
Francis, chastising the animal, said, “Brother Wolf, you have committed great crimes and for this you should be punished. You deserve to be put to death just like the worst robber or murderer. But I want to make peace between you and the people of Gubbio.”
“I will ask them to provide food for you, so that you will never again be hungry. But you must agree never to kill another living creature as long as you live. Can you promise me this?”
The wolf, nodding its head in agreement, meekly raised its front paw and gave it to Francis as a sign of his pledge. The townspeople, in turn, willingly agreed to provide for the wolf.
Later that day in the marketplace, when the crowd gathered to hear Francis talk, they saw the wolf and how this ravenous beast had been transformed into a trusting and obedient disciple whom they no longer feared.
Each day, Brother Wolf came to Gubbio for food provided by the villagers. Years later, when the wolf died, they erected a church over his grave called San Francesco della Pace which can be visited to this day.