“One early evening in winter I was walking alone through the woods toward a town which I could already see and where I wanted to find lodging. Suddenly a big wolf came upon me and jumped at me. I had the woolen prayer rope which had belonged to my late starets in my hands, and in my attempt to defend myself with it the prayer rope slipped out of my hands and lodged around the neck of the wolf. The wolf jumped away from and got caught in a thorny bush with his hind legs and with the prayer rope on a branch of a dry tree. He tried desperately to free himself but was unable to because the prayer rope was choking him. With faith I blessed myself and went to free the wolf and especially to get my precious prayer rope, for I feared that the wolf would run away with it. And, sure enough, the moment I approached the wolf and touched the prayer rope, he broke it and ran away without leaving a trace. I thanked God for His help in retrieving my prayer rope and remembered my late starets. Then I happily reached the town and stopped at an inn to ask for lodging…
The clerk [of the inn] looked at me and asked, “Were you making prostrations so earnestly that you even broke your prayer rope?”
“No, it was not I who broke it; it was a wolf,” I said.
“Really? Do wolves pray?” asked the clerk.”
From The Way of a Pilgrim, trans. Helen Bacovcin
The famous Russian hermit and starets St. Seraphim of Sarov was one day visited at his hovel in the woods by an enormous bear. As his daily rations had recently arrived, the holy man, who was known to be a fastidious observer Christian hospitality, offered half of his food to his guest, . The next day the bear returned and St. Seraphim again shared his food. This happened throughout the winter and on into the spring. The bear prefered to eat at the saint’s table rather than hibernate. Soon, it was time for Great Lent. At that time, it was customary for the monk’s rations to be cut in half for those 40 days of fasting and repentance. So, when the bear continued to visit, St. Seraphim began giving the bear all of his rations, leaving nothing for himself. One day while this was going on, the Abbot visited St. Seraphim, and was astonished and frightened to discover a bear being fed and gently spoken to by the venerable old monk. When St. Seraphim explained that he had been giving his Lenten rations to the bear all along the Abbot got angry.
“You ought not to be doing this, and during Lent of all times!” he chided.
To which St. Seraphim replied, “But, Abbot, the poor bear does not know that it is Lent.”
What is your favorite story involving saints and animals?