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.