Q. We celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi this week (October 4). Did he really write the famous “Prayer of St. Francis” which begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace”?
A. Though the prayer is typically attributed to St. Francis, it’s almost certainly a modern creation. The prayer was first published, in French, in a Catholic weekly newspaper in 1912. Also known as the “Simple Prayer,” it was then republished on the front page of the Vatican newspaper in 1916 at the request of Pope Benedict XV. The Holy Father especially liked its message of peace in the midst of World War I.
The actual author remains anonymous. So why was the prayer attributed to Francis?
Historians note that it’s inspired by Franciscan themes, but the language is not typical of 13th-century Italian, which Francis spoke. There seems to have been no organized attempt by anyone to deceive people into believing that Francis was the author. Perhaps it was later attributed to him because it was made popular by a French Franciscan between the two World Wars, who printed it on cards with an image of Francis on the back.