The Prayer of Saint Francis is a Christian prayer. It is attributed to the 13th-century saint Francis of Assisi, although the prayer in its present form cannot be traced back further than 1912, when it was printed in France in French, in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell) as an anonymous prayer, as demonstrated by Dr Christian Renoux in 2001.
Original Text of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis
Belle prière à faire pendant la Messe
Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour.
Là où il y a l'offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l'union.
Là où il y a l'erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.
Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu'à consoler, à être compris qu'à comprendre, à être aimé qu'à aimer, car c'est en donnant qu'on reçoit, c'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve, c'est en pardonnant qu'on est pardonné, c'est en mourant qu'on ressuscite à l'éternelle vie.
Summarising the Christian Renoux' book on the prayer, an article by Egidio Picucci on the 19-20 January 2009 issue of 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 number 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. 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 on L'Osservatore Romano and La Croix as a prayer for peace during the First World War, this prayer then became widely known.
The Origin of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis
Origin of this Prayer
The first appearance of the Peace Prayer occurred in France in 1912 in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell). It was published in Paris by a Catholic association known as La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The Holy Mass League), founded in 1901 by a French priest, Father Esther Bouquerel (1855-1923). The prayer bore the title of 'Belle prière à faire pendant la messe' (A Beautiful Prayer to Say During the Mass), and was published anonymously. The author could possibly have been Father Bouquerel himself, but the identity of the author remains a mystery.
The prayer was sent in French to Pope Benedict XV in 1915 by the French Marquis Stanislas de La Rochethulon. This was soon followed by its 1916 appearance, in Italian, in L'Osservatore Romano [the Vatican's daily newspaper]. Around 1920, the prayer was printed by a French Franciscan priest on the back of an image of St. Francis with the title 'Prière pour la paix' (Prayer for Peace) but without being attributed to the saint. Between the two world wars, the prayer circulated in Europe and was translated into English. Its has been attributed the first time to saint Francis in 1927 by a French Protestant Movement, Les Chevaliers du Prince de la Paix (The Knights of the Prince of Peace), founded by Étienne Bach (1892-1986).
The first translation in English that we know of appeared in 1936 in Living Courageously, a book by Kirby Page (1890-1957), a Disciple of Christ minister, pacifist, social evangelist, writer and editor of The World Tomorrow (New York City). Page clearly attributed the text to St. Francis of Assisi. During World War II and immediately after, this prayer for peace began circulating widely as the Prayer of St. Francis, specially through Francis cardinal Spellman's books, and over the years has gained a worldwide popularity with people of all faiths.
For more information : see the book by Dr. Christian Renoux, La prière pour la paix attribuée à saint François : une énigme à résoudre, Paris, Editions franciscaines, 2001, 210 p. : 12.81 euros + shipping (ISBN : 2-85020-096-4). -- Order From: Éditions franciscaines, 9, rue Marie-Rose F-75014 Paris.
Author's Note: Dr. Christian Renoux, is continuing his research on the propagation of this prayer, and is looking for new information about its publication in English between 1925 and 1945, and in all other languages between 1912 and today. If you have such information, please contact him at contacted at this email address.