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Welcome to the second post of my series on Catholic piety for Protestants and converts; in this series I am delving into some of the classic prayers of the Church. Catholic piety is not typically well understood in Protestant circles, and as a convert I found this to be an area that was both fascinating and also deeply important to my changing perceptions of the Church.
If you missed the first post in the series, check it out here.
The Peace Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your 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,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
My conversion happened at a crisis point in our lives. As I mentioned in my Reflection after the Easter Vigil, I was feeling pretty crushed by life when I first darkened the door of the Church. This prayer spoke to my soul, that in crisis, in rejection, in sadness, loss, and even despair, with Jesus in me, I could sow joy. I did not have to be a victim of my circumstances, always reacting, always on the defensive, but I could forget myself and serve others, even coming from a place of great lack in terms of both material goods and also emotional stamina.
In conflict with our previous church leaders, I could sow peace and pardon. In a place of despair regarding our financial future, I could lean on a strength not my own and sow hope to others.
In a place in my life where I deeply felt need of consolation and understanding, I could find purpose in offering these things to others, and forget my own craving for the comforting of my wounds. Jesus was strong enough to do these things in me, without my needing to be strong enough first.
None of these ideas were really new to me, as a believer from a Protestant background. The impact on me of many things I found in the Church didn’t always come from a place of striking difference from Protestant piety, but by an unexpected similarity met by a difference in tone and fueled by the hidden power of the Eucharist. Truths that I knew in my head and strove for in my soul sprang to life before the living reality I encountered each Sunday at the Mass.
Welp, friends, the first thing you find out when looking into the history of this prayer is that it didn’t actually come from St. Francis.
Am I the only one that didn’t know this?
The prayer originated in France in the early 1900’s, published anonymously in a little spiritual magazine entitled La Clochette. It became associated with St. Francis by virtue of having been published on the back of a holy card bearing St. Francis’s image, but without being attributed to him. (Dr. Christian Renoux, Franciscan Archive, 8/22/2017, 10:30 am).
The association with St. Francis makes a lot of sense, regardless of authorship; the spirit of the prayer is very much in accord with the life and spirituality of St. Francis. In the words of Jack Wintz, OFM: “Francis of Assisi may not have written the words of the prayer attributed to him, but he certainly lived them.”
- Life of St. Francis of Assisi – St Bonaventure
- Peace Prayer of St. Francis prayer card
- The Prayer of St. Francis – ill. by Guiliano Ferri. I haven’t seen this in person, but it looks like a beautiful rendition of the prayer for children.
- The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life – John Michael Talbot
- The Catholic Company carries a variety of items from bookmarks to wall plaques bearing this prayer.
In closing, a musical rendition of the Peace Prayer, by John Michael Talbot. I love prayers set to good music!
Linked up at Reconciled To You.