St. Francis’ prayer not actually written by St. Francis.
After the “Our Father who art in Heaven” it is probably the second most well-know prayer. You know the one “make me an instrument of your peace.” Mother Theresa was known to recite it every day and Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton and other dignitaries have cited it in their speeches.
Not only did St. Francis not write it, but it wasn’t written until 600 years after he was born.
A 2009 article published 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.
No true Franciscans ever really thought the prayer was penned by the wolftamer himself, nor anyone remotely familiar with the history of the Italian language or Catholic Church.
Although it is inspired by some of St. Francis’ favorite themes, the prayer’s syntax does not match the Umbrian dialect of the 1200′s which he used.
One of his devotional songs has survived, so we do have means of comparison. He wrote the Canticle of the Sun in 1224. It’s one of the first pieces of literature written in a recognizably Italian idiom.
The Canticle of the Sun
by Francis of Assisi
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.