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Prayer of Saint Francis

 

Prayer of Saint Francis

The so-called Prayer of Saint Francis, also known as the Peace Prayer or Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, is a widely known Christian prayer. Often wrongly attributed to the 13th-century saint Francis of Assisi, the prayer in its present form cannot be traced back further than 1912, when it was printed in Paris in French, in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell), published by La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The League of the Holy Mass). The author's name was not given, although it may have been the founder of La Ligue, Fr. Esther Bouquerel.[1]

A professor at the University of Orleans in France, Dr. Christian Renoux, published a study of the prayer and its history in French in 2001.[2]

Around 1920, a French Franciscan priest printed the prayer on the back of an image of St. Francis, without attribution.[1] The prayer has been known in the United States since 1927, when its first known English translation (possibly still under copyright today) appeared in the Quaker magazine Friends' Intelligencer under the mistaken title "A prayer of St. Francis of Assissi".[3] Senator Albert W. Hawkes and the saint's namesake Cardinal Francis Spellman distributed millions of copies of the prayer during and just after World War II.[2]:92–95

The prayer has similarities to this saying of Blessed Giles of Assisi, one of the companions of St. Francis:
Blessed is he who loves and does not therefore desire to be loved; blessed is he who fears and does not therefore desire to be feared; blessed is he who serves and does not therefore desire to be served; blessed is he who behaves well toward others and does not desire that others behave well toward him; and because these are great things, the foolish do not rise to them.[4]

Contents

  • Text and translation 1
  • Musical settings 2
  • History 3
  • Quotations 4
  • Historical studies 5
  • Spirituality 6
  • References 7

Text and translation

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life."[5]

(Many other English versions exist.)

Musical settings

A popular hymn version of the prayer is "Make Me A Channel of Your Peace", adapted and set to music in 1967 by South African songwriter Sebastian Temple (Johann Sebastian von Tempelhoff). It is an anthem of the Royal British Legion and is usually sung every November at the Service of Remembrance at Royal Albert Hall, London. In 1997 it was part of the Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales,[6] and was sung by Sinéad O'Connor on the Princess Diana tribute album. The hymn was also sung during the religious wedding ceremony of Prince Albert II of Monaco to South African Charlene Wittstock in 2011.

Other adaptations of the prayer by notable musicians include those by Arthur Bliss, Moya Brennan, The Burns Sisters, The Canadian Tenors, Ryan Cayabyab, Dream Theater, John Foley, The Innocence Mission, Singh Kaur, Snatam Kaur, Matt Maher, Sarah McLachlan, A Ragamuffin Band, John Rutter, John Michael Talbot, and Denison Witmer.

History

Summarizing the Christian Renoux book on the prayer, an article by Fr. Egidio Picucci in the 19–20 January 2009 issue of the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano says that the earliest record of the prayer is its appearance, as "a beautiful prayer to say during Mass", in the December 1912 issue of the small devotional French publication La Clochette, "the bulletin of the League of the Holy Mass". In 1915, Marquis Stanislas de La Rochethulon, president of the Anglo-French association Souvenir Normand, which called itself "a work of peace and justice inspired by the testament of William the Conqueror, who is considered to be the ancestor of all the royal families of Europe", sent this prayer to Pope Benedict XV in the midst of World War I.[1]

The Pope had an Italian translation published on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano of 20 January 1916. It appeared under the heading, "The prayer of Souvenir Normand for peace", and with the explanation: "Souvenir Normand has sent the Holy Father the text of some prayers for peace. We have pleasure in presenting in particular the prayer addressed to the Sacred Heart, inspired by the testament of William the Conqueror." On 28 January 1916, the French newspaper La Croix reprinted, in French, the Osservatore Romano article, with exactly the same heading and explanation. La Rochethulon wrote to the newspaper to clarify that it was not a prayer of Souvenir Normand, but he chose not to mention La Clochette, the first publication in which it had appeared. Because of its appearance in L'Osservatore Romano and La Croix as a prayer for peace during the First World War, the prayer then became widely known.[1]

Quotations

  • South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, declared that it was "an integral part" of his devotions.

Historical studies

  • Christian Renoux, La prière pour la paix attribuée à saint François, une énigme à résoudre, Paris, Editions franciscaines, 2001 (in French).
  • Christian Renoux, La preghiera per la pace attribuita a san Francesco, un enigma da risolvere, Padova, Edizioni Messaggero, 2003 (in Italian).

Spirituality

  • Albert Haase, OFM, Instruments of Christ. Reflections on the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2003.

References

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