A Cautious Man
January 23, 2009
It's Hard To Be A Saint ...
Oh my sweet child how did you sleep last night
She said, "I dreamed I saw Saint Francis"
He came in the body of a lion and had tears in his eyes
"It don't have to be this way"

- Little Steven, Saint Francis

Now this is disappointing news:

Mother Teresa recited the simple prayer of St. Francis every day. Margaret Thatcher cited it upon becoming prime minister of Britain, and Alcoholics Anonymous included it in its “12 steps” book.

But something else is notable about the prayer that begins: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith.”

St. Francis of Assisi, who was born in the 12th century, probably had nothing to do with it.

An article published this week 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.

It doesn't make it any less a Catholic staple (its use has even been an occasion for conservative opinionators to demonstrate their confusion, about the fact that "liberal" and "religious" are not mutually-exclusive labels, as we've discussed here before). Still, "tradition" seems less "traditional" when it's not as old as first thought.



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