Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
The Prayer of Saint Francis is one of the best known and best loved prayers in the Catholic liturgy. Common legend and Church doctrine says that it was penned by the titular Saint. However, opinions outside of the Church differ wildly on the actual source of the original verses. As the source differs, the prayer changes slightly, conforming to the general theme, but varying subtly in the lines.
Where there is injury, pardon
where there is doubt, faith
Among the most famous renditions of the prayer include a hymn attributed to Johann Sebastian von Tempelhoff, a rendition of the same by Sarah McLachlan, and an adaptation by Dream Theater in Shattered Fortress. Samples and full excerpts have been penned in murals, used on greeting cards, and frequently used throughout the Christmas season as a message of hope and peace.
Where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
and where there is sadness, joy
The verses are a call to understanding and self-possession in times of trouble and strife, of reaching out to one's fellow man to do the right thing. It is a call to selflessness in order to embrace God's higher calling. It is a prayer for patience, and peace, making it admirably suited for the Franciscan and Capuchin Brothers, who are famously known to embrace poverty and simple lives in the pursuit of their vocation, much as Saint Francis himself is legendary for.
O Divine Master
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a prayer more devoted to peace and selflessness than banging the Christian drum, the verses have found common and popular use throughout modern times, and throughout Christian denominations. Although understandably popular in the Church, the prayer has found use by such luminaries as Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, and Diana, Princess of Wales. Through the musical renditions by Sarah Mclachlan and others, the Prayer of Saint Francis has entered the collective cultural background.
To be understood, as to understand
to be loved, as to love
for it is in giving that we receive
The Christian context of the prayer is less prominent throughout this, although some imagery, such as the beseeching of the Lord to aid one, and the final verses, in which one is reminded of Heaven. Despite this, the lines of the work are a reminder to patience and abandoning the needs of the self in order to better understand humanity and the higher self. As a cry for understanding of not merely the self but those around us, both less and more fortunate,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
It's possible that entering the common cultural scene will cause this prayer to lose some of the luster and grace of the mission to reach out to our fellow man. The sympathies of the prayer are, admittedly, trite as a Salvation Army bellringer during the holiday season. The underlying message of listening as opposed to speaking, hoping, as opposed to despair, and faith in the face of pain, however, is less fragile and less surface than a martyr complex. To sacrifice without expecting anything in return, and without ego, is the entire point.