Friday, September 10, 2010

St. Francis' Peace Prayer

On this, the day before the ninth anniversary of the terrible, terrible terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, I encourage you to think with me about the peace prayer of Francis of Assisi. That prayer, IMHO, is one of the greatest Christian prayers of all time.
Murray Bodo, a Franciscan priest, has written many books and articles about Francis. I have just finished reading two of Fr. Bodo’s books: Francis: The Journey and the Dream (1972; rev. ed., 1988) and The Way of St. Francis: The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone (1995). The most impressive chapter in the former was “Francis Before the Sultan.”
The Fifth Crusade was called for by Pope Innocent III, the Pope who blessed Francis in 1209. That crusade was actually begun in 1217, the year after Innocent’s death, under the leadership of the following Pope, Honorius III, whom Francis had also met personally.
Francis participated in that crusade—but not with a sword. In 1219 he risked martyrdom by entering the court of Malik al-Kamil, who had become the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt the year before, to seek peace. Al-Kamil was the Muslim leader who led the defense during the Seige of Damietta, a major battle of the Fifth Crusade. Even before meeting Francis, he had made several offers of peace to the Crusaders, all of which were rejected.
It is a historical fact that Francis appeared before the sultan—and, somewhat miraculously, was not martyred. Yesterday I checked a new book out of the library: The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace (2009) by Paul Moses. I want to learn more about Francis’ historic encounter with the sultan.
In the imagined dialogue between the humble Francis and the powerful al-Kamil, Fr. Bodo has Francis say to the sultan that he wants to share “a prayer I learned by fighting the great battle with my self, by conquering one by one the demons in my own heart.” And the sultan responds, “Then pray it for me now, here in front of these dullards who infest my tent.”
Then Francis kneels down and begins to pray,
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
. . . . 


  1. Local TF Tom Lankford gave me permission to post the following meaningful comments received by e-mail:

    "I love St. Francis and his Peace Prayer. Our Sunday School class has start our journey into Genesis and it is serendipitous to me that on this weekend anniversary of 9/11 we find ourselves in the story of Cain and Abel. It occurs to me that this story is emphasizing that life is often unfair but we would 'do well' to listen to God's advice to Cain in 4:6 and 4:7 and let our 'do well' be to follow Assisi's prayer. I also find it interesting that the first murder was over the jealousy that sprung from a religious ritual that just perhaps God had a hand in creating but certainly in which God called for a different reaction."

  2. One of my thinking who lives and teaches overseas sent these comments by e-mail:

    "Thanks for sharing this. It was helpful, so helpful as these days we work in a university environment where teachers are more and more degraded, and “salesmen” administrators treat us more and more like things to be used for their managerial agendas. Today I had very angry thoughts, and reading your blog was a soothing moment to hopefully turn me away from hated.

    "I am beginning to think, however, that neoliberal capitalism is the Beast of Revelation."

  3. A timeless prayer. I'm particularly fond of Olive Dungan's arrangement of this for vocal solo.

    It's too bad Rev. Jones and his followers at Gainesville's Dove Outreach Center aren't more familiar with this prayer. What irony that the name of their church is named for the symbol of peace.

    Thanks for helping put our remembrance this weekend into positive and constructive context, Leroy.

  4. This is a regular prayer I use for the Divine Office. The rendition by John Michael Talbot ends the prayer with "...and it is in dying that we are now born again." + I believe that to be a good ending, and one championed by St. Paul to the church in Galatia "I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me..." +

  5. Thanks, 1sojourner, for indicating that there was more to St. Francis' prayer than I quoted above. I should have indicated that. The rest of the prayer is:

    "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.

  6. Dr. Glenn Hinson, who often sends brief responses by e-mail, which I greatly appreciate, wrote the following earlier today:

    "Thanks, Leroy. It's the right prayer for our time. I hope we can truly pray it.