The Significance of the Prayer of Saint Francis
The Prayer of St. Francis
In Times of Joy and Grief
Few prayers are more important to me than the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis or as it is simply known to most, the Prayer of St. Francis. During times of joy, I sought its humility and gratefulness and during times of grief, I sought its solace and peace.
This prayer is so essential to my life that not a day goes by where I do not recite its words at least once. I even find that there are days where I will pray it unconsciously since it is now so ingrained in my life.
I don’t want to make more of a prayer than one should. In the end, the key thing for us is a strong and devoted relationship to God that emanates his love and brings joy and comfort to those around us. Nevertheless, while God engineers the circumstances of our lives, it is still up to us to make good use of the gifts imparted upon us so we can be a source of joy, strength, and peace for others.
In addition, as you know, none of this will be possible if we don’t have ways to strengthen ourselves mentally and spiritually.
First, please allow me to begin with a little history.
The prayer of St. Francis has a beautiful harmony of words and the generous and joy-filled spirit we have learned of St. Francis of Assisi. However, we should know that St. Francis did not write it. The prayer originated during the early 1900’s by a catholic priest who sought to translate St. Francis’ love to his flock.
According to French scholar Dr. Christian Renoux the prayer first appeared in France in 1912 in a small magazine called La Clochette (the little bell) authored by a Father Bouquerel who incorporated it into his masses where he referred to it as the “Prayer of Peace.”
Even though bishops, cardinals and serving popes, knew the prayer in subsequent decades, the prayer did not become widely circulated until World War II where war wearied soldiers found it comforting and peaceful during the worst time of their life.
The Prayer of St. Francis
What astounds me about the Prayer of St. Francis is its simplicity, making easy to memorize, and its richness for intellectual and spiritual reflection. Intellectual because it makes us think of how we interact with others and spiritual because it speaks to our relationship with God no matter the stage our relationship with Him is in.
The following are my thoughts on my favorite prayer, the Prayer St. Francis.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Like that of Christ, our mission on earth is to bring peace to others along with God’s forgiveness and completeness. Some of us come from great homes. However, others come from broken homes and feel as if life has been against them from the very beginning. This leads them to feel inadequate and incomplete. These first few verses emphasize God’s priorities for our lives. To live in peace, to love, and forgive even when we’ve been wronged. Surely, we, like St. Francis, can serve as an instrument of peace for those around us.
God teaches us to forgive even those who wrong us. I know that this is not easy. I struggle greatly with this. However, love is best expressed when we do not allow ourselves to be offended or injured by a wrong and forgive as easily as God forgives.
When I have a hard time loving or forgiving, I remind myself how much God has to love me to put up with me and forgive on a daily basis. This rather settles everything with that point.
What it comes down to is I. I can control my actions and behavior. Our goal is not for others to love us, but to make ourselves the most loveable people we can be. Wow! This will not be easy. However, let’s give it a try.
Fight Doubt, Despair, Darkness, and Sadness
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And And where there is sadness, joy.
Doubt, despair, darkness, and sadness are like wild fires that threaten everything around us. We need to be like firefighters in such cases and extinguish their flames with all of our might.
Early in his life, Francis found himself in a fog of doubt as God’s love for him. In response, he sought God through prayer and God opened his eyes to a marvelous spiritual relationship.
Because his doubt was now gone, he felt it important to help lift other’s burdens of doubt. He would do this mainly by the example of his life.
Think of Saint Francis and Father Damien of Molokai embracing lepers and lovingly caring for them. Surely, many of those suffering souls felt a surge of hope and human dignity when they experienced Francis’ or Father Damien’s care.
Many believe that the secret of Saint Francis’ joyful spirit was his strong belief in God’s overflowing love and how this love brought value to people’s lives.
Console, Understand, and Love
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.
These last verses tell us how we need to prioritize others in order to enrich their lives as well as ours. When we console others, we are telling them they’re important to us. We share their pain and strengthen them at the same time. We are there when they need us most. What a mission!
Understanding others starts by listening and having brotherly love in our lives. One of humanity’s greatest challenges is being overly judgmental. This makes others weary of us and voids trust. Let’s work on laying aside judgment and seek to understand primarily. It’s not about winning the person over, it’s about sharing a moment and time. We need to stop having so many dogs in the fight.
Let’s give more than we receive. This is something our parents taught us many years ago but we’ve forgotten it. A river is full of life because it continually gives of its waters to feed other bodies of water. And when things are going the most difficult, give of what you have of most value; your time. It’s not about what you might get in return, it is about living well. So never, hold back.
Lastly, be grateful for the life you have. God made you strong enough to live it because we can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.
Francis of Assisi may not have written the words of the prayer attributed to him, but he certainly lived them. This is why it is so easy to attribute the prayer to him.
Everyone who is able to read these words readily sees that they communicate the heart of the Gospels and capture what is most essential in our lives.
The Prayer of Saint Francis is a deep well of wisdom that can help grow and mature our mental and spiritual lives. We would be wise to visit it often.
© 2020 Fernando Guadalupe Jimenez