Frankly Speaking

For a 13th century all-around do-gooder and archetypal environmentalist, St. Francis of Assisi has certainly been in recent news much more than one would expect.  This past Saturday, the Catholic Church held a reopening ceremony of St. Francis’ burial crypt in Assisi’s basilica inferiore, following a two-month refurbishment which removed caked-on candle soot that had darkened the original pink stones.  After all, the spring tourist season is just beginning.

credit: Stefano Medici


And although St. Francis was known in his lifetime to have been a friend to all God’s creatures and had special fondness for birds, wolves and donkeys, it’s nonetheless disconcerting to hear his name invoked by Comrade Bear.   On Wednesday,

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said … that he and President Dmitry Medvedev do not exclude the possibility of joining the presidential race in 2012.

However, Putin expressed irritation about constant media attention to the topic:

“But the election is nearly a year away,  and this fuss about the elections is not conducive to the normal organization of work. If we all issue some wrong signals, then half of the presidential staff and more than half the government will stop working in anticipation of some changes.”
“In the meantime, everyone must sit at his desk day in and day out and should keep toiling on his plot every day with devotion and diligence worthy of St. Francis of Assisi,” [Putin] said.

Perhaps the Prime Minister had in mind this story about man’s ancient nemesis, Comrade Wolf:

In the city of Gubbio, where Francis lived for some time, was a wolf “terrifying and ferocious, who devoured men as well as animals.”  Francis had compassion upon the townsfolk, and went up into the hills to find the wolf.  Soon, fear of the animal had caused all his companions to flee, though the saint pressed on. When he found the wolf, he made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf to come to him and hurt no one. Miraculously the wolf closed his jaws and lay down at the feet of St. Francis.

“Brother Wolf, you do much harm in these parts and you have done great evil,” said Francis. “All these people accuse you and curse you… But Brother Wolf, I would like to make peace between you and the people.” Then Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens made a pact between them and the wolf. Because the wolf had “done evil out of hunger,” the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly, and in return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks.  In this manner Gubbio was freed from the menace of the predator. Francis, to show the townspeople that they would not be harmed, blessed the wolf.  Francis even made a pact on behalf of the town dogs, that they would not bother the wolf again.

There’s a lesson in that tale for all of us.


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