Homily — 28th Sunday OT B 10/4/09 (Respect Life Sunday)

Homily — 28th Sunday OT B 10/4/09


Photo of St. Francis and Wolf of Gubbio Picture

You are probably wondering what this enormous (60 inch X 40 inch) picture (shown above) is doing here in the sanctuary.

I recently acquired the picture from St. Francis House, the assisted living facility on Blackstone Street that had to be closed down by the Diocese this past week because of the stricter Rhode Island Fire Code in the aftermath of the Station Night Club Fire.

The picture was hanging up in one of the halls of St. Francis House, I have no idea how old it is, nuns moved into the building in the 1930s and perhaps it goes back that far.

In case you haven’t guessed, the man in the picture is St. Francis of Assisi, who’s Feast Day is today (October 4).

Tomorrow (Monday) at 1:15 p.m. I’ll be celebrating a special Mass with the school where I’ll bless the picture, and after that we’ll be hanging the picture on one of the walls in the school.

The picture depicts the very famous story of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. The account can be read in a Book called “The Little Flowers of St. Francis” written 100 years after Francis’ death on October 3, 1224.

Story about how there was a “fearfully large and fierce” wolf living outside of the town of Gubbio Italy that was so hungry it began to eat humans who were walking out in the country. The story says that people were so afraid that they would carry weapons with them “as if they were going to war” – which is why the men in the background of the picture look like confederate soldiers.

St. Francis hearing of this went out to where the wolf lived. The wolf saw Francis coming and lunged towards him with his sharp teeth and claws ready to tear him to pieces and make lunch out of him.

But Francis stood there and made the Sign of the Cross over the Savage Wolf, and immediately the big wolf stopped running, lowered his head, and meekly walked over to Francis and laid down by his feet like a little lamb would do.

And Francis said to the Wolf “Brother Wolf, . . . . you have committed horrible crimes. . . .in killing and devouring human beings made in the image of God. You deserve to be put to death . . . . this whole town is your enemy. . . .but I want to make peace with you and the town”

And Francis told Brother Wolf that if he promised not to hurt any animals or humans any more, he would promise to make the people of the town feed Brother Wolf every day for as long as he lived, “for I know that whatever evil you have been doing was done because of . . . . hunger. Will you promise (and pledge) me that, Brother Wolf?”

Let’s shake on it! And as you see in the picture, the wolf put out his paw and shook on that promise. And the people of the town of Gubbio forgave the wolf of his former sins of killing their fellow townspeople, and for the rest of it’s life they fed and took care of the wolf, and when it grew old and died they built a shrine over its burial place which you can visit today. (In the late 1800s, excavations under the shrine unearthed a very large skull of a wolf with teeth intact.)

This story could not be more relevant to us today as we observe Respect Life Sunday.

For again, a “fearfully large and fierce” wolf prowls not around the village of Gubbio Italy, but around the city of Woonsocket, around the state of Rhode Island, around the country, around our Western World.

For decades now, this savage wolf has terrorized and devastated our Christian Culture.

This wolf has for the past 30 years torn millions of unborn children from their mother’s wombs, and has hindered and prevented millions more born children from growing up knowing loving and serving Jesus so that now our Church pews are empty of children and our Catholic schools are closing.

This wolf has also torn apart countless marriages through divorce, infidelity, and the sexual revolution.

And like the townspeople of Gubbio, our efforts to stop this wolf from harming our society have all been in vain, the wolf only gets bigger and fiercer with each passing year.

And that is a pity, because we like St. Francis have been given by Jesus the power to not only stop this wolf but tame it as well, by courageously standing up to the Wolf as Francis did, and by arming ourselves with the Sign of the Cross.

The Holy Cross of Christ has the power to transform the wolf into the lamb, the culture of death into a culture of life.

But while many of us Catholics know how to make the Sign of the Cross, few us of Catholics really pray the Sign of the Cross.

St. Francis prayed the Sign of the Cross as we can see in the picture with crucified hands, standing on two crucified feet, with a pierced and crucified heart – that kind of prayer and only that will tame the wolf.

And while St. Francis was given the visible stigmata by Jesus, all of us Catholics are called to bear the invisible stigmata – to have the Hands and Feet and Heart of Christ – totally dead to sin and evil, totally alive to Love and Good Works.

On this Respect Life Sunday, and during this Respect Life Month of October, may we ask Jesus to give us the grace to Crucify ourselves to the world, that the Sign we are sending to the Wolves who prowl about our culture and hold sway over it will be the Saving and Tranforming Sign of the Cross, which will tame that wolf and turn it into a Lamb who will lead the little children and their parents to Jesus the Good Shepherd.

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