While compiling (and editing and re-editing) my Rosary for Anglo-Catholic Use, it dawned on me that the prayers usually accompanying it, whether said in a Roman setting or an Anglican setting, were in “church” language. You know what I mean: “thee”, “thou”, “doest”, “beseech”, “hallowed”, “art”, “thy”, “thine”, etc.; what folks call Elizabethan or King James English, just like Shakespeare’s plays and the “Authorized Version” of the Bible. Roughly equal to mouthing ecclesiastical Latin during an old style Mass and not really feeling what is said in such a foreign sound, no matter how beautiful to the ears.
At around the same time, looking through the histories of some of these prayers, I discovered that many of the better known English language texts were based on translations which left something to be desired. That, and the fact that there were older, simpler versions of the prayers in early, sometimes obscure manuscripts.
The best way to go about this is, for each prayer in turn, to give the familiar, churchy-language version first, then my revision, followed by an explanation of the changes.
Fourth up is the Prayer of Saint Francis.
Better known as the “Prayer of Saint Francis”, this prayer first appeared in magazine in Paris in 1912, probably written by the priest who was its publisher. The most often seen translation into English goes:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is discord, harmony; Where there is error, truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, 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. 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.
This, however, is not an entirely exact translation. But then, neither is mine.
Remind us, Rabbani, to be instruments of your peace. Let us show love where there is hatred; pardon where there is injury; union where there is discord; trust where there is doubt; hope where there is despair; your light where there is darkness; joy where there is sadness. May we seek rather to console than to be consoled; to understand than to understood; to love than to be loved. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are forgiven; and it is in dying that we live. Amen.
1) On “Remind us to be” rather than “Make us”: A Christian is supposed to be an instrument of peace from conversion, baptism, or age of majority, depending on the order those happen. We tend to forget, however, and do need reminding.
2) On the reversal of the more traditional order: Active voice rather than passive voice is always better, in prayer as well as literature.
3) On the name: While it certainly fits with Francis of Assisi’s teachings, he did not write this prayer, which was written in Paris, France, in 1912.