A Few Thoughts on the “Prayer of St. Francis”

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.

This second stanza of the “Prayer of St. Francis” is painted in stencil on an outside wall at our Sunset Campus, overlooking the area where guests gather for Know Your Neighbor Nights.

Though widely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, it was first published in 1912 by Father Esther Bouquerel, who operated a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (“The Little Bell”). Originally, the prayer was published anonymously with the title, “A Beautiful Prayer to Say During Mass.”

Scholars believe that Bouquerel himself wrote it, and it became attributed to St. Francis by accident a few years later. During WW1, a Franciscan priest distributed cards with images of St. Francis on one side and this prayer on the other—much like the vintage card above. On those cards, the prayer was labeled simply, “Prayer for Peace.”

St. Francis did not write the “Prayer of St. Francis.”

On January 22, 1927, the Quaker magazine Friends’ Intelligencer first published the prayer in English as “A prayer of St. Francis of Assissi.” It ran between articles about increasing violence around the world with titles such as “Critical Days in China” and “The Mexican Crisis.”

As violence and conflict continue throughout the world, these words of peace and humility remain as urgent as they were during the first and second world wars. And Father Bouquerel’s prayer surely communicates the values St. Francis stood for—from his doctrine of evangelical poverty to his teachings on peace.

During this election season, remember this prayer of peace and these actual words of St. Francis: “Go, announce peace to all people; preach repentance for the remission of sins. Be patient in trials, watchful in prayer, and steadfast in weariness. Be modest in speech, responsible in your actions, and grateful to your benefactors.”