Saint Francis and the Taming of the Wolf of Gubbio

"Upon a certain day, when the monks were building up the cells of the same Abbey, there lay a stone which they meant to employ about that business: and when two or three were not able to remove it, they called for more company, but all in vain, for it remained so immovable as though it had grown to the very earth: whereby they plainly perceived that the devil himself did sit upon it, seeing so may men's hands could not so much as once move it: wherefore, finding that their own labors could do nothing, they sent for the man of God (Benedict), to help them with his prayers against the devil, who hindered the removing of that stone. The holy man came, and after some praying, he gave it his blessing, and then they carried it away so quickly, as though it had been of no weight at all." 1

While reading through St. Gregory the Great’s account of The life of St. Benedict,2 specifically the incident described in chapter IX regarding the immoveable stone I was reminded of an interesting situation that I went through many years ago...

I used to live in a small house which had a kitchen with a door that led to a backyard. In this somewhat unkept backyard lived Angel, a friendly and lovable Coker Spaniel that my sister had given to my mother shortly after the previous dog had been mysteriously found dead in the middle of the street one afternoon. It happened occasionally that when I opened the door in the kitchen to step out into the backyard, Angel would walk into the kitchen. All I would have to do was say something like, “Angel, no. Go outside,” and he would obey. Sometimes when the mutt was acting stubborn, I would pick Angel up, carry him in my arms and place him in the backyard without a problem.

One Saturday afternoon I decided to go to the nearby Starbucks to grab a coffee and finish reading a book on photography. As I was getting ready to leave, I saw the kitchen door open and Angel walk into the kitchen; he managed to prance all the way to the living room and sat himself in the middle of the room. From a distance I yelled, “Angel, no. Get out,” but the pooch didn’t move. I hollered at him again, but Angel just sat there like a stone in the middle of the room and stared right at me.

Where there was usually a happy and exciting semblance to Angel, there was but a cold and expressionless mug. It was as if a raven had fluttered into my house3. I decided to do what I usually did on such occasions and pick up the spaniel, but it would prove to be a mistake. As I approached Angel I could see that both of his eyes were bloodshot. I hesitated. As I reached down to grab him, he growled and barked at me. As soon as I touched him, Angel dug his canine fangs straight into my arm. I yelled! He squirmed and I let him go. Angel had never attacked me like that before. He struck me on purpose, but he was unknown to me.

I couldn’t believe that Angel had attacked me, but I was determined to get him out of the house. I went to the bathroom and grabbed a couple of towels which I used to wrap around my hands and arms. At an unexpected moment, I planned to come up behind the dog and carry him out of the house. When I came back from the bathroom I could see that Angel was sitting in the exact spot as before. I took a couple of breaths and charged straight at him and grabbed him by the neck; he twisted side to side and stuck his teeth right into the towel on my right hand. I ran out the kitchen door and threw the beast straight into the yard, he flew and his body slammed onto the brick wall that surrounded the backyard.

I was shaking horribly. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I turned on the faucet and ran the cold water; I rinsed off the blood oozing out of my hand. After about 10 minutes I was finally able to calm down. I was glad that the incident was over, but it turned out to be only half the story.


For the most part the Starbucks was empty, except for a few people sipping on their mid-afternoon brew. The incident I had just encountered with Angel moments before was still running through my mind, so I was glad to be able to focus on something different now. After I ordered my grande vanilla latte with nonfat milk, I found a seat, not at one of the chic wooden tables, but in one of two dark brown leather chairs in the middle of the shop. There was no one sitting in the other chair, but I figured it wouldn’t be long until someone took it.

As I read through my book, A Guide on How to Take Great Photographs and took a sip of my latte, I accidentally poured coffee on myself (I’ve always been a bit clumsy). I looked down at my shirt disappointed, but unsurprised at my habitual mistake. Before I was able to inspect the stain further, a napkin was put in front of my eyes; I looked up and caught a glance at a young woman, her arm extended toward me with the napkin at hand.

She had a punk-rock look to her: she wore a black tank top, torn light-blue jeans, a ring clung to her left nostril, her hair was tied back in a ponytail, and she sported tattoos on both arms. At first glance, one might not expect to receive such an act of kindness from a gothic-looking chick like her.

In any case, I took the napkin and wiped down my shirt. “Is anyone sitting there?”, she asked as she pointed at the empty chair. “No, go right ahead,” I answered, a bit weirded out. She took her venti-whatever- it-was and shamelessly began to talk to me about her day, her life, how she lived only a few blocks away from the coffee shop and how bored she was. She spoke as if she knew me, as if we had known each other for years.

There was something captivating about her (I definitely have never been hesitant about getting to know real-life characters wherever I go). So, I just sat there listening to her with my Starbucks cup in hand, like a sailor enchanted by a mermaid4 siren5. After a while she got up and said, “I have to go. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.” “Yeah...maybe,” I said. And she disappeared from view.

Just then, I began to think of Angel again and decided to check up on him. As I drove back home, I couldn’t help but think about the way I had to treat him; I began to remember the incident again, the bloody red eyes, the fangs and growling, the evilness with which he attacked me. I could clearly see the mutt’s mug in my mind again. Then I thought about the girl at the coffee shop and how strange that encounter was. I thought about the ripped jeans and tattoos.

I suddenly remembered that while she spoke, I tried to inspect the ink art on her arms. I practically froze when the name on her right arm flashed back into my mind like lightening7 – ANGEL6. What? No way! I yelled to myself. You’re kidding me! It was true, the name “Angel” was branded on her right shoulder, but Why hadn’t I reacted before?! I realized then that it was all connected somehow, the canine and the girl, the vile attack and the invasion of my space. I needed only to see things clearer, take a better mental photograph, if you will.8

When I got home, I rushed to the kitchen door. I feared what I might encounter with Angel, yet curious to know if there was more to this strange day. When I opened the door that led to the back yard, I saw my dog lying next to his bed. As soon as he saw me, he wagged his tail, walked toward me and tilted his head up. His eyes were no longer ruddy, and I could tell his demeanor had changed. I crouched down and gave him a big hug. This was the cuddly, loving friend I loved; it was because of this good-natured disposition that I had originally named him Angel, but could just as well named him Gubbio.9

St. Benedict and St. Francis, pray for us.

By Edgar Avendano @latinofilmmaker


1 St. Gregory the Great, The Life of Saint Benedict in Early Christian Lives, trans. Carolinne White (London: Penguin Books, 1998), 163204.

2 Early Christian Lives, trans. Carolinne White, 179.

3 The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe,

4 The Starbucks logo consists of a seductive mermaid:

5 Odysseus and his encounter with the sirens could fit in here, too. I always did feel like life as a Christian was a spiritual odyssey of sorts; it’s a journey of believers who must fight their way through monsters and worldly distractions in order to make it back home to heaven.

6 And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18)

7 For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)

8 I later recounted this incident in detail to a layman named Benjamín Sepúlveda at Guadalupe Radio who has experience with assisting Catholic Priests in the Rite of Exorcism and has his own radio show titled Cristo sana, salva y libera (Christ Heals, Saves and Restores), which addresses the need for conversion and the importance of the Holy Sacraments. In a meeting I had with him, Mr. Sepúlveda suggested that the experience I had that day was one clearly influenced by an evil spirit.

The story of how St. Francis of Assisi tamed the Wolf of Gubbio is one of the great legends linked with the life of the saint.