following comes from the Vitae Patrum (Life of the Fathers), compiled, in
Latin, in 1628 by Heribert Rosweyde, S.J., from sources dating to the third
and fourth centuries.
another remarkable old man living in a small hut with room for only one person.
A wolf had the habit of coming to him for food, and it was rare that she
failed to turn up for her meal at a regular hour. She used to wait outside
for him to give her what bread he had to spare out of his store, then lick
his hand before departing as if to show her respect for the kindness offered
But one day it so happened that a brother had been visiting him and that
holy man had walked back with the brother for such a distance that it was
nighttime before he returned home.
Meanwhile the animal had come to the empty cell at the usual time to be fed,
and when she saw no sign of her familiar benefactor, went inside, curious
to discover where he was. Now there happened to be a basket of palm leaves
hanging up containing five small loaves. She took one and devoured it, then,
the crime committed, went away.
When the hermit came back he saw the basket had been disturbed and contained
fewer loaves than there should have been. His house had been despoiled, and
he noticed fragments of the stolen bread on the threshold. He had a pretty
good idea of who had been responsible for the theft.
But the next few days the animal did not come at the usual time; no doubt
ashamed to come near the person to whom she had done harm, and the hermit
missed greatly the pleasure of her company. He prayed earnestly for her return,
until at last on the seventh day she appeared outside at the usual time to
be fed. But you can always easily tell when someone feels guilty, and the
wolf herself did not dare to approach very close, but stood there shamefacedly
with her eyes cast down to the ground, as if to make it clear that she was
asking pardon for her fault. The hermit took pity on her embarrassment, called
her closer and gently stroked her sorrowful head. He restored their relationship
by giving her a double ration of bread, and thus by his forgiveness was able
to dispel all sadness and reinstate their usual custom.
Just think, I beg you, of the power of Christ in this affair. To him everything
brutish is made wise, everything savage becomes gentle. A wolf is aware of
her duty, a beast acknowledges the crime of theft, a wolf is thrown into
confusion by a sense of shame, she comes when called, she bows her head,
and is as much aware of having her sins forgiven as of shame at what she
had done. Yours is the power, O Christ, yours are these miracles! Even though
it is your servants who do these things they do them in your name; the wonder
is yours. And it saddens us that wild beasts can know the power of your majesty
while human beings show you no respect. And if all this seems unbelievable
I shall show you even greater things. As God is my witness I am not making
these things up, but simply telling you what I have seen.