Authority: St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

The town of Gubbio was being afflicted by a ravenous wolf that tore apart both beasts and men and which nobody could withstand; so that the people of the city either went about heavily armed or stayed inside the gate. As the wolf ate even those who were heavily armed, eventually they all stayed inside the city gate. St Francis of Assisi was in their midst at the time and decided to deliver them from the wolf.  He went outside the gate and, when the wolf charged he withstood in the name and authority of Jesus Christ and commanded it to be meek by making the sign of the cross. To the astonishment of all but St. Francis, the wolf stopped its charge, closed its mouth, bowed low and obeyed St. Francis. The saint then informed the wolf that in the normal course of justice it should be horribly hacked to pieces but that if it was prepared to attack neither man nor beast and be fed by the people of the city that he would spare it.  The wolf indicated his agreement by appropriate and humble movements. That day St. Francis preached and a covenant of peace was drawn up between the wolf and the people of the city, the wolf pledging his agreement by raising his right paw at the appropriate moment.  The city raised a tremendous cheer and thanked both God and St. Francis for their deliverance from the ravenous wolf. As for the wolf, it kept its part of the bargain and begged its food from house to house, becoming a part of the city and a constant reminder of the mercy of God and the blessedness of St. Francis. This went on as related for around two years until old age claimed the wolf and it died.  [Summarized from “The Little Flowers of St. Francis”, trans. E.M. Blaiklock and A.C.Keys]


The SFO Rule


#6 They (Secular Franciscans) have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.
Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and 7.trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.




Both Francis and the wolf teach us about the proper use of and response to authority.


Francis shows us that we must have courage if we are to influence others for good.

Francis’s courage in the face of danger came from his total reliance on God.

Francis’s humility allowed him to influence others through service to the community because he did not seek power.

Reliance on God draws people to the message we seek to impart because they sense that we do not seek power for our own sake.

Francis knew how to use authority for a good cause because he was humble enough to be submissive to the authority of God and the church.


The wolf teaches us to recognize and respond to authority.

He submits to the true authority of Francis because Francis’s authority is born of humility and reliance on God.

The powerful wolf humbles himself. No matter how “important” we are, we must always be willing to submit to just authority and especially to the authority of God.


So then, our Rule calls us to influence others and proclaim Christ to the world. Our Rule calls us to rebuild the Church. Therefore, our Rule calls us to use our authority in a just way. At the same time, our Rule calls us to humility in submitting to the authority of the Church and thereby submitting to the authority of Christ.


If we follow Francis’s example, we will truly be able to change others because we do not work for ourselves, but for the honor and glory of God.


Return to Cord


Return to Home Page