Monday, December 1, 2014

"Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix" | "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace"

1912 December:  the prayer appears for the first (and last) time in La clochette 9, no. 12 (decembre 1912):  285, edited by l'abbé Esther Bouquerel (1855-1923), without any further attribution or commentary as follows (Christian Renoux, La prière pour la paix attribuée à saint François:  une énigme à résoudre, Présence de saint François 39 (Paris:  Les Éditions Franciscaines, 2001), 25 ff., where it is also set in the context of the editorial and authorial practices of Bouquerel, whose personal papers had not by the year 2001 been uncovered):

Belle Prière à faire pendent la Messe

     Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
     Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour.
     Là où il y a l'offense, que je mette le pardon.
     Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l'union.
     Là où il y a l'erreur, que je mette la vérité.
     Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
     Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance.
     Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
     Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.
     O Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu'à consoler, à être compris qu'à comprendre, à être aimé qu'à aimer, car c'est en donnant qu'on reçoit, c'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve, c'est en pardonnant qu'on est pardonné, c'est en mourant qu'on ressuscite à l'éternelle vie.

1913 January:  the prayer appears in Annales de Notre-Dame de la Paix à Beauchêne (Orne), no. 95 (janvier 1913):  582, ed. le chanoine Louis Boissey (1859-1932), who was a La clochette subscriber, and who retained the title and cited La clochette, but changed "Là où il y a la discorde" to "Là où il y a de la discorde", and "Là où il y a l'erreur" to "Là où il y a de l'erreur" (Renoux, 46-47).  Here it was encountered by the Marquis Stanislas de La Rochethulon et Grente (d. 1941) (Renoux, 47), president of the Anglo-French Souvenir Normand (Renoux, 48), a "Ligue universelle de paix" committed to the realization of the supposedly last wish of William the Conqueror, ancestor of the monarchs of Europe, for "'La justice.  Le droit.  La paix de Dieu'" throughout Christendom (Renoux, 52).

1915 December:  the prayer is commended by the Marquis Stanislas de La Rochethulon to the peace pope Benedict XV via Cardinal Gasparri in the form of a prayer for peace addressed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus ("Prière du Souvenir Normand au Sacré-Cœur inspirée du testament de Guillaume le Conquérant, Rouen Saint-Gervais, 9 sept. 1087", but attributed penultimately to "La Clochette normand").  It lacks the second of the two changes introduced by Boissey, and places "foi" and "espérance" in all caps (Renoux, 47 ff., 59).  Gasparri acknowledged receipt on 1916 January 24 (Renoux, 55).

1916 January 20:  the prayer appears at the request of Cardinal Gasparri or maybe Pope Benedict XV in an Italian translation on p. 1 of L'Osservatore Romano ("Le preghiere del 'Souvenir Normand' per la pace"), with the changes outlined at Renoux, 62, and especially the "psychologizing" shift from "c'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve" to "nel dimenticare se stessi che si ritrova se medisimi" ("c'est en s'oubliant soi-même qu'on se retrouve soi-même").

1916 January 28:  the prayer is translated back into French (from the much-altered Italian of L'Osservatore Romano) on p. 6 of the Paris Assumptionist daily La croix (Renoux, 62 ff.), and even further psychologized ("c'est en se donnant que l'on reçoit", Renoux, 62-65).  Until the discovery of 1912 December in [year], above, the French Franciscans long considered this the original text (Renoux, 63-64).

1916 February 3:  La croix publishes a letter from the Marquis Stanislas de La Rochethulon specifying that "[this prayer was published for the first time in January of 1913 in the Annales de Notre-Dame de la Paix]", and crediting Boissey, though the Marquis de La Rouchethulon had himself specified La clochette in his letter to the Pope (Renoux, 65-67; cf. 59, under 1915 December, above).

1917:  Face à l'épreuve!, by Alexandre Pons (1887-1938), appears, in which the prayer is called, not just (as by the Marquis de La Rochethulon, referencing William the Conqueror) medieval, but "très ancienne" (Renoux, 69).

[post-1918 (?)]:  Fr. Étienne Benoît (Étienne de Paris), OFM Cap., a visitor assigned to the Third Order Franciscans of Rheims, prints it for them (as "Extraite [(Extraité?)] du «Souvenir Normand»") on the verso of a holy card bearing on its recto an image of St. Francis of Assisi, and calls it for the first time specifically a "Prière pour la paix".  Beneath the prayer appear the following two paragraphs:  "[This prayer sums up marvelously the exterior physiognomy of the true Child [(i.e. Tertiary)] of Saint Francis and the salient traits of his character.  May all the Tertiaries of the district of Rheims make of it their program of life.  The surest means of realizing it is of course [(encore)] to recite this formula piously every day and to ask God with fervor for the grace to put it into practice]" (Renoux, 71 ff.).

pre-1925 September:  an English translation dependent on the original French of Group B is made and becomes in turn the source of the French in the September 1925 issue of Vie franciscaine (Renoux, 134, 130, 87, 74-75, etc.).  It is, so far as we know, only the second to appear outside of France.

1925 December:  the original version of 1912 December, only very slightly modified (Renoux, 80n15), is adopted as the official prayer of the Mouvement des Chevaliers du Prince de la Paix (1924- ) and published on p. 3 of no. 7 of the Bulletin des Chevaliers de la Paix by the French lieutenant, Mouvement founder, and Protestant Etienne Bach, who had been introduced to it "[in Paris in the Spring of the year 1925]" by the Protestant pastor and reconciliation activist (Secretary of the Union protestante chrétienne/Evangelisch-Christliche Einheit) Jules Rambaud (Renoux, 80).  Bach called it, following Bouquerel, "Une belle prière" (later "Prière des Chevaliers de la Paix").

1927 August:  the version published by the Protestant Etienne Bach is "Attribuée à St François d'Assises" (sic) in a short account of the third assembly of the Mouvement des Chevaliers du Prince de la Paix in Bois-Tizac, Gironde (Renoux, 81), and often by said Mouvement thereafter.  On 20 March 1967, the (by then) Rev. Bach wrote Fr. Willibrord to say that he had looked into its origin, but without success (Renoux, 82).  "[It is therefore in Protestant circles that our prayer was first attributed to Saint Francis]" (Renoux, 81).

1936:  a new English translation differing from the one at the root of the back translation in the 1925 September issue of Vie franciscaine appears in the anthology New every morning:  the prayer book of the daily broadcast service (London:  British Broadcasting Corporation, 1936), and an extract entitled "A Prayer of St. Francis", on a prayer card published in London by Mowbray (Renoux, 87-88).



"Toutes des vérifications montrent donc que saint François n'a pas écrit la prière pour la paix.  Et pourtant, aujourd'hui, cette prière est certainement pour le grand public le texte le plus connu de ce saint.  Les franciscains d'Assise eux-mêmes ne diffusent-ils pas des cartes en plusieurs langues portant imprimées ce texte avec en signature la nom de saint François[?]  Comment a-t-on pu en arriver là?  C'est ce que nous allons essayer de comprendre à travers l'histoire de l'apparition et de la diffusion exceptionnelle de cette prière."

     Christian Renoux, La prière pour la paix attribuée à saint François:  une énigme à résoudre, Présence de saint François 39 (Paris:  Les Éditions Franciscaines, 2001), 20.

"This text, attributed to the saint with the reputation for being one of the great Christian mystics, is not addressed to Jesus Christ, does not even name him.  There is to be found in it no evangelical or [even] biblical allusion.  None of the desires it expresses is specifically Franciscan or [even] Christian."

     Fr. Willibrord-Christian van Dijk, O.F.M. Cap., "Préface" to Christian Renoux, La prière pour la paix attribuée à saint François:  une énigme à résoudre, Présence de saint François 39 (Paris:  Les Éditions Franciscaines, 2001), 6-7, translation mine.
     That, at least, seems extraordinarily unjust.  For it begins with the profoundly biblical appellation "Seigneur" (e.g. Lk 5:12 and very often elsewhere; cf. 1 Thess 3:12), and contains in fact many allusions certainly consistent with Scripture, if not uniquely biblical, references to peace, love, pardon, truth, faith, hope (and thus all three of the theological virtues), light, joy, the superior blessedness of giving (Acts 20:35), the necessity of death to resurrection (Jn 12:24 and very often elsewhere), and so forth. 

"Noble as its sentiments are, Francis would not have written such a piece, focused as it is on the self, with its constant repetition of the pronouns 'I' and 'me,' the words 'God' and 'Jesus' never appearing once."

     Augustine Thompson, O.P., Francis of Assisi:  a new biography (Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press, 2012), ix.

"which in fact dates from the end of the nineteenth century".

     André Vauchez, Francis of Assisi:  the life and aftermath of a medieval saint, trans. Michael F. Cusato (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2012 [2009]), 243, citing only Renoux.

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