I wrote the refrain of this piece while I was a Peace Studies major at Manchester College, in the early 1990’s. Twenty years later, in 2013, I worked out the rest of the piece for my church choir at the La Verne Church of the Brethren. It took a few more years to get me to notate the piano part, but that’s finally done too!
It should be noted that although the text of this piece is widely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, it does not appear in his writings, and has not been found in print earlier than 1912. The French historian, Christian Renoux, published a whole book on this topic in 2001. He discovered that the prayer first appeared in the French spiritual publication La Clochette, but no author’s name was given. Renoux notes, however, that with few exceptions, the unattributed writings in La Clochette were from the pen of its publisher, Father Bouquerel, so one may assume it is his work. The last portion of the prayer does happen to bear some resemblance to a saying attributed to Giles of Assisi, one of St. Francis’ companions, so perhaps Father Bouquerel was inspired by his words to compose the prayer? (And, who’s to say that Giles didn’t get some of his ideas from St. Francis, so you never know….)
During World War I, around 1918, a French Franciscan priest mass-produced a card with this “Prayer for Peace” on one side, and a picture of St. Francis on the other, and this may be why it began to be associated with St. Francis. The prayer was again widely distributed during World War II, this time in the U.S., and the prayer was now entitled “The Prayer of St. Francis.” If you say it and keep saying it, the people believe it, n’est-ce pas? But no matter, the prayer is beautiful and will be loved for ever.
Here is the text as adapted for this particular choral setting:
O make me an instrument of peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, let me sow pardon;
where there is doubt, let me sow faith!
O make me an instrument of peace:
where there’s despairing, let me sow hope;
where there is darkness, let me sow light;
where there is sadness, let me sow 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 another.
For in giving we receive,
and in pardoning, we are pardoned,
and in dying, we are born into abundant life.