Most Catholics—indeed, most Christians, and not a few non-Christians—are familiar with the prayer known as the Prayer of Saint Francis. Usually ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi, the 13th-century founder of the Franciscan order, the Prayer of Saint Francis is in fact only a century old. The prayer first appeared in a French publication in 1912, in Italian in the Vatican City newspaper L’Osservatore Romano in 1916, and was translated into English in 1927.
The Italian publication was made at the order of Pope Benedict XV, who worked tirelessly for peace during World War I and saw the Prayer of Saint Francis as a tool in his campaign to end the war. Similarly, the Prayer of Saint Francis became well known in the United States during World War II, when Francis Cardinal Spellman, the archbishop of New York, had millions of copies distributed to the Catholic faithful to encourage them to pray for peace.
There is no parallel to the Prayer of Saint Francis in the known writings of Saint Francis of Assisi, but after a century, the prayer is known today only by this title. A musical adaptation of the prayer, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace, was written by Sebastian Temple and published in 1967 by Oregon Catholic Press (OCP Publications). With its simple melody, easily adapted to guitar, it became a staple of folk Masses in the 1970’s.
The Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And 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. Amen.