20 March 2012

Mercy Over Justice


In this short life, it is better to pursue mercy than justice, as much as possible.  

St. Francis loved this virtue of mercy so much, in gratitude for the mercy Christ had shown by his own passion and death on the Cross, Francis even showed mercy to a wild beast.

This story, taken from a book on St. Francis, relates one such situation:

"It is marvelous to relate that as soon as St. Francis made the Sign of the Cross, the wolf of Gubbio closed its terrible jaws and stopped running, and as soon as he gave that order, it lowered its head and lay down at the Saint's feet, as though it had become a lamb.

And St. Francis said to it as it lay in front of him: "Brother Wolf, you have done great harm in this region, and you have committed horrible crimes by destroying God's creatures without any mercy. You have been destroying not only irrational animals, but you even have the more detestable brazenness to kill and devour human beings made in the image of God. You therefore deserve to be put to death just like the worst robber and murderer. Consequently, everyone is right in crying out against you and complaining, and this whole town is your enemy. But, Brother Wolf, I want to make peace between you and them, so that they will not be harmed by you anymore, and after they have forgiven you all your past crimes, neither men nor dogs will pursue you any more."

The wolf showed by moving its body and tail and ears and nodding its head that it willingly accepted what the Saint had said and would observe it.

So St. Francis spoke again: "Brother, Wolf, since you are willing to make and keep this peace pact, I promise you that I will have the people of this town give you food every day as long as you live, so that you will never again suffer hunger, for I know that whatever evil you have been doing was done because of the urge of hunger. But, my Brother Wolf, since I am obtaining such a favor for you, I want you to promise me that you will never hurt any animal or man. Will you promise me that?"

The wolf gave a clear sign, by nodding his head, that it promised to do as the Saint asked. "

Saint Francis of Assisi
Little Flowers of St. Francis - 21
Attributed to Fra. Ugolino da Santa Maria, 150 years after the death of St. Francis