This prayer has long been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Indeed, in the minds of many people it is synonymous with the good saint. Regrettably, however, no matter how Francis-like and however so much it captures what St. Francis felt and lived for, it was never written by him. A survey of the collections of St. Francis' writings will reveal that it is not a part of the corpus of his writings.1
All the evidence points to a composition sometime in the early 20th century. There are no pre-20th century prayer books in which it appears in any form. The first known printed copy of the prayer appears in a small 20th century Italian prayer book and therein the prayer is ascribed to William the Norman. A holy card from later on has it ascribed to William the Conqueror. It was not until sometime in the middle of the 20th century that it was first attributed to St. Francis. There is some evidence that Cardinal Spellman is the one who is responsible for the title. There is evidence that he came across the prayer in Italy, brought it back with him to the United States, and had it printed under the title "Prayer of St. Francis".
Despite its recent origins, it does stand as one of the great prayers composed down through the ages. The English text is very popular, appearing on a considerable number of web pages and in recent prayer books. It also appears in several hymnals.
I am unaware of any sort of official Latin text of the prayer. But since I get quite a few queries about a Latin text, I have produced one myself below.
| Domine, fac me servum pacis tuae,
ubi odium, amorem seram;
ubi iniuria, veniam;
ubi dubium, fidem;
ubi desperatio, spem;
ubi caligo, lucem;
ubi tristitia, laetitiam.
| LORD, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
| O Domine coelestis, concede mihi ut ne tam petam
consolari quam consolare,
intellegi quam intelligere,
amari quam amare.
| 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.
| Nam in dando recipimus,
in ignoscendo ignoscimur,
et in moriendo ad vitam aeternam nascimur. Amen.
| 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.
- Armstrong, Regis, O.F.M. CAP. and Brady, Ignatius, O.F.M., "Francis and Clare, the Complete Works", The Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press, 1982, p xiii, 10.
- Esser, Kajetan, O.F.M. "Opuscula Sancti Patris Francisci Assisiensis", Grottaferrata, 1978 pp37-43
- Esser, Kajetan, O.F.M. "Die Opuscula des Heiligen Franziskus von Assisi", Grottaferrata, 1976