The Vicar’s Letter November 2019

 

 

Dear Friends,

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”                                                                                                 Luke 6. 27-28

The hymn “Make me a channel of your peace” is a favourite hymn for many. I am as fond of it as anyone. The words come from a prayer often entitled “The Prayer of Francis of Assisi”. However, I hope I am not shattering too many illusions when I say that this attribution to St Francis is now accepted as false. Much as it looks as though it should have come from his pen, there is no record of it in his writings.  The prayer itself can be traced back only as far as 1912 when it first appeared in a publication called “La Clochette” (The Little Bell) and was described as “a beautiful prayer to say during mass.”  It was printed anonymously.  Research into the prayer’s origins in an attempt to clear up the matter of its authorship concluded that it was probably written, like much of the magazine’s content, by its editor Fr Esther Bouquorel (1855 – 1923). Who knows, perhaps Fr Esther deliberately left it unacknowledged to be in keeping with the humble nature of the prayer.

How did it become associated with St Francis? Apparently this “Prayer for Peace” was printed at the end of the first world war in 1918 on a Franciscan prayer card without authorship. But on the other side of the card was a picture of St Francis. It began to circulate in America and an English version appeared in the Quaker magazine “Friends Intelligencer” with the title “A prayer of St Francis of Assisi”. The American Archbishop and Army Chaplain Francis Spellman printed and distributed millions of copies of the prayer during WW2. By then it had become firmly associated with St Francis.

As a prayer for peace it has gained much popularity by people of all faiths. It was used by Pope John Paul II as farewell at the end of the very first “World Day of Prayer for Peace”. Mother Teresa of Calcutta used it every morning in her Missionary and asked for it to be recited when she won the Nobel Peace Prize. It has become an anthem of the British Legion often sung at the Festival of Remembrance, it was also sung at Princess Diana’s funeral. Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton are also said to have cited it in public.

What is it that makes this prayer/hymn resonate so much with us all?

Apart from the beautiful words and the soulful nature of the melody, is it that deep within ourselves we all long for a world in which this prayer has been answered?

We long to be the person who brings peace to a troubled world. We long to live unselfishly and with humility, the bringer of wisdom, faith, comfort, joy and peace to others. We long for that peace in our own lives. The prayer helps us to recognise our own failings and our need of the Lord’s help to be the person we long to be.

Jesus words on loving each other, our neighbours and even our enemies, challenge us each and every day to live out the words of this prayer. It is certainly worth meditating upon as we enter the season of Remembrance.

Every Blessing,

Angela.