October 17 – Three prayers of St. Francis
October 4 was the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, one of my personal favorite Saints.
In reflecting on St. Francis, while certainly much could be said about this Saint who had a profound influence on the Church, I want to talk about three prayers of St. Francis.
“Make me a channel of your peace.” This prayer is probably the most known because it is often titled “The prayer of St. Francis.” However, here’s an interesting fact: St. Francis never ever wrote this prayer. It’s an anonymous prayer that was printed on a St. Francis prayer card that got circulated and so, became attributed to him. However, as a friar put it: “One can safely say that although [St. Francis] is not the author [of this prayer], it resembles him and would not have displeased him.” And I think that it’s true. That living the words of this prayer would very much be in the way St. Francis strove to live the Gospel.
“Canticle of the Sun.” His next most famous prayer, (but one that he ACTUALLY WROTE), is commonly referred to as the “Canticle of the Sun.” You are probably most familiar with it in the English hymns, “All Creature of Our God and King” or the song titled “Canticle of the Sun,” both hymns based on this poetic prayer by St. Francis. This prayer is based upon Psalm 148; and like the Psalm, invokes all of creation in praise of the Almighty Creator God.
“Prayer before the Crucifix.” And some of you may or may not know the story: St. Francis was kneeling in a little Church called San Damiano and while in prayer he heard Christ speak from the cross to him saying, “Francis, rebuild my Church, for as you can see it is fallen into ruin.” St. Francis took this literally and began to gather stones and physically rebuild the dilapidated structure. But as he continued this work, he began to realize that Christ meant something so much bigger and deeper than a rebuilding of physical church buildings, but rather a profound spiritual renewal in the Church – the people of the Church!
St. Francis would continue to pray before this San Damiano Cross and composed a prayer that he would pray before the Crucifix. I think this prayer, while simple, is a good one to pray regularly, as it is a prayer to genuinely seek and do God’s will, with a correct faith, a certain hope, and a perfect love. A prayer for us to pray often, especially now in such a seemingly confusing world:
“Most high and glorious God
Enlighten the darkness of our hearts.
Instill in us a correct faith
a certain hope
and a perfect love,
a sense and a knowledge, Lord, that we may do your holy and true command.
– Fr. Kevin