Frank's Prayer for Peace

A prayer that will be widely used today in Remembrance Services, either in read or sung form, will be the so-called "Prayer of Saint Francis." It is popularly attributed to the 13th-century saint Francis of Assisi, but I am reliably informed (and not just by Wikipedia) that the prayer in its popular form cannot be traced back further than 1912, when it was printed in French, in a small spiritual magazine called "La Clochette" ("The Little Bell") as an anonymous prayer.

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.

With the coming of the First World War, it was then promoted by an unusual organisation called "Souvenir Normand", which claimed to be "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". William the Conqueror... a harbinger of peace and justice... Who'd have thought it? But to this day many think that peace and justice comes through conquest (See George W's recent biog for example!) even though it seems at odds with the message of this prayer as well as the life and teaching of Jesus.
Anyway, the "Souvenir Normand" sent this prayer to Pope Benedict XV in 1915 and he had an Italian translation published on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano on 20th January 1916. It was subsequently reprinted in many other newspapers across the world in many different languages.
It has been adopted and adapted by many religious bodies and others, including Alcoholics Anonymous, over the years, but probably the most famous version of the prayer is the musical setting by secular Franciscan, Sebastian Temple, published by Oregon Catholic Press in 1967. Like everything, however familiarity can breed contempt... or at least complacency. One of my lecturers at Theological College, Sydney Callaghan, loathed its first line, because he felt that the usual English translations of "channel" or "instrument" reduces us to being merely passive vessels for God's work... And there is something in that... Unless you believe in a sovereignty of God that makes our humanity and free will completely redundant (and there are many who do) there is the sense that God works through us, and can do so whether we want to or not, but it is far better (for ourselves if no-one else) if we work with him. Hence we are not passive/inanimate instruments or channels, but living, breathing agents of his peace...

Anyway, I don't know whether Sydney would like my take on this prayer any better, but here it is:

Lord, make me wellspring of your all-pervading peace.
Where there is hatred and fear, let me show and sow love;
Where there is injury and hurt, let me bring healing and forgiveness;
Where there is doubt and despair, let me bring faith and hope;
Where there is darkness, let your light shine through me;
and where there is sadness, may I share your sustaining joy.

My God and Master, shift my focus from myself.
May I seek to comfort others rather than remain comfortable;
May I listen and hear, rather than seek to speak;
May I love indiscriminately rather than seek love selfishly.
For its only when we give away that we have room to receive;
it is in forgiving that we find ourselves forgiven;
and it is in dying that we really begin to live life to the full. Amen



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