St. Francis’ prayer not actually written by St. Francis

It’s probably the second most famous prayer after the Our Father. You know, the “make me an instrument of your peace” one. Mother Theresa recited it every day and even Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton have cited it in their speeches.

Well, not only did St. Francis not write it, but it wasn’t written until 600 years after he was born.

An article published this week in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said the prayer in its current form dates only from 1912, when it appeared in a French Catholic periodical.

And it became wildly popular only after it was reprinted in L’Osservatore Romano in 1916 at the behest of Pope Benedict XV, who wanted a prayer for peace in the throes of World War I.

This isn’t news, really. No actual Franciscans ever thought it was penned by the wolftamer himself, nor anyone remotely familiar with the history of the Italian language or Catholic Church.

Although it is inspired by some of St. Francis’ favorite themes, the prayer’s syntax does not match the Umbrian dialect of the 1200’s which he used.

One of his devotional songs has survived, so we do have means of comparison. He wrote the Canticle of the Sun in 1224. It’s one of the first pieces of literature written in a recognizably Italian idiom.

7 thoughts on “St. Francis’ prayer not actually written by St. Francis

  1. I’m a bit surprised at how poetically… well, pagan the Canticle of the Sun seems.

    I’m also embarrassed to have growed up Catholic and never heard of it. :blush:

    1. St. Francis definitely had a hippie/pagan vibe going on. Most founders of monastic orders weren’t exactly naturists, but Francis was on a perpetual ecstasy roll.

      I can’t believe you’d never heard of the canticle! It was huge in my Catholic environs. Zefirelli even named his St. Francis mini-series after it.

  2. One has to wonder what St. Francis, who devoutly embraced his vow of poverty in the absolute, would think of that gargantuan, garish monstrosity of a building, the Basillica of St. Francis, in Assisi?

    Would he be pleased to see what the Catholic Church did to honor him? Or would he be shocked & ashamed?

    I think I know the answers.

    1. The Basilica of St. Francis isn’t at all garish or monstrous, imo. It’s rather delicate in decoration, with its Giotto and Cimabue frescos. The building was designed by a follower of St. Francis, and really, as far as Catholic churches go, it’s not all that lavish.

      Do I think Francis would have preferred to worship in a field instead of such a church? Ya, probably, but he wasn’t resentful of wealth in general. He just personally eschewed it.

  3. William L purports:

    “Would he be pleased to see what the Catholic Church did to honor him? Or would he be shocked & ashamed?

    “I think I know the answers.”

    Since St Francis was passionately devoted to the Roman Catholic Church, even to the point of accepting martyrdom by Moslem extremists bent on destroying, then as now, the Catholics and the Church, your assertion that you think you know the answer is specious at best.

    You know, William L., it is the height of arrogance to press your own views on a historical character with the pretense that know what he would think.

    Francis spent much of his life restoring and beautifying churches specifically because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should ne celebrated with as much splendor as possible as a sign of the Mass being a time when heaven touches earth.

    I hope, William L., that, when you want to present your own views again, you will look before your post and do it with a tad more humility.

    1. Francis of Assisi actively courted martyrdom by joining the crusader forces besieging the Egyptian port town of Damietta. It didn’t work because the man to whom he was preaching, Sultan Al-Adil, had no interest in killing him. The opposite is true. He tried to negotiate a treaty that would lift the siege. How people in their own homes in Egypt being systematically destroyed by starvation, thirst and disease courtesy of an invasion force of Europeans can be characterized as “Moslem extremists bent on destroying, then as now, the Catholics and the Church” is completely beyond my ken.

      Note, also, that while Al-Adil was attempting to negotiate peace with the Pope and the crusaders — who would, of course, have none of it — the whole time the crusaders were allied with another “Moslem extremist,” the Seljuq sultan of Anatolia who courteously opened a second front in Syria to sap Egyptian forces.

      Perhaps you should look to the mote in your own eye before lecturing people about humility.

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