Saint Francis of Assisi? La Clochette magazine? Friends’ Intelligencer? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a very popular prayer that is usually credited to St. Francis of Assisi. It begins:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
What is known about this attribution? Is it correct?
Quote Investigator: Christian Renoux, an Associate Professor at the University of Orleans, France, investigated the origin of this prayer and was able to trace it back to an appearance in French in a magazine called “La Clochette” in 1912 where it was published anonymously. This research is discussed in a short article titled “The Origin of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis” which is available at a website of “The Franciscan Archive” here [CRSF].
There is no compelling support for an attribution to St. Francis. Renoux states that around 1920 the prayer was printed on the back of an image of St. Francis with the title ‘Prière pour la paix’ (Prayer for Peace). This suggests to QI a natural mechanism for the creation of the ascription to St. Francis.
In 1927 a version of the prayer appeared in English in a periodical called “Friends’ Intelligencer” published by the Religious Society of Friends also known as the Quakers. This is the earliest instance in English that QI has located. Immediately preceding the prayer the following attribution was given: “A prayer of St, Francis of Assissi”. Note the spelling of Assisi within the periodical used the letter “s” four times [FAFI]:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; and
where there is sadness, joy.
“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.”
The text of the prayer above has been reformatted for readability. The passage in “Friends’ Intelligencer” was printed in two simple paragraphs with a break at the phrase “O Divine Master”.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.