Friday, January 23, 2009

Maybe It Was Uncle Francis

This prayer is and has been a favorite of many Christians, including Mother Teresa, who said it every day:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we 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. Amen.
Many believe the prayer was written by St. Francis of Assisi, who was born in the 12th century. Now the New York Times reports:
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.

Although news to many, the truth about the prayer had apparently been hiding in plain sight.
Including in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, most recently revised in the 1970s, which calls it "a prayer attributed to [emphasis added] St. Francis." That's the BCP version above. Another supposedly Franciscan formulation that is a favorite of preachers but has always seemed a little too perfect to be true: "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."

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