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Two wolves and a choice

Day 3: Via Francigena – San Gimignano to Colle di Val d’Elsa

We decided today to take the alternative route to Monteriggioni via Colle di Val di’ Elsa also known as the “crystal city” because of its high-quality glass ware.

Also simply known as Colle the town has for centuries been frequented by pilgrims on the Via Francigena. On a little hill opposite the castle in the medieval town is the 13th century convent of San Francesco where the saint’s followers would assemble for prayer.

On the walk through the shady forests and hilltops kissing the clouds I was reminded of the story of how St. Francis tamed a wolf that was terrorising the population of the Umbrian town of Gubbio.

The tale of the wolf and emotions running wild

The story goes that the wolf waited outside the city gates waiting to feast on anyone foolish enough to venture outside. Francis, who had lived in the city at the time, then announced that he himself would visit the wolf in its lair. With the wolf charging at Francis he made the sign of the Cross and commanded the wolf to cease its attacks in the name of God, at which point the wolf trotted up to him docilely and lay at his feet, putting its head in his hands.

The symbolism of the story is telling. There is a similar tale of an old Indian chieftain telling his grandson the story of two wolves constantly struggling in the heart of the human:

“There is the wolf of darkness, who is full of envy, desperation, fear and anger. The other is the wolf of light. It is the wolf of love, generosity, compassion, kindness and joy.”

The grandson asks, “And which of the two wolves is going to win?”

Sighing, the old chieftain replies, “The wolf you choose to feed.”

The story from Zen Buddhism on the taming of the bull has similar connotations. It says much about maintaining control of emotions. Uncontrolled outbursts of anger have destroyed countless marriages, long friendships, and destroyed careers and business deals.

The wolf has a voracious appetite and the warning from St. Francis and the Indian chieftain is clear. We have the freedom of choice. The wolf could be tamed because St. Francis had made him aware that a life in fear, hunger and being constantly on the run was one of suffering. In the The Fioretti di San Francesco that describes the life of St. Francis, the wolf is described as bowing its head and submitting completely at his mercy.

“As thou art willing to make this peace, I promise thee that thou shalt be fed every day by the inhabitants of this land so long as thou shalt live among them; thou shalt no longer suffer hunger, as it is hunger which has made thee do so much evil; but if I obtain all this for thee, thou must promise, on thy side, never again to attack any animal or any human being; dost thou make this promise?”

Reino Gevers – Author. Mentor. Speaker

One more thing…

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Filed under Camino de Santiago, Pilgrimage, spirituality