ST. FRANCIS of ASSISI: His Prayer
1181 – 1225
FIRST RECORDED WORDS of ST. FRANCIS
We have but a few pages of writing, which we can for certain be attributed to St. Francis, one of the most widely loved saints in the world and founder of the largest religious order.
It is interesting to note that his first words we have on record probably dates from 1205-6 when he was already twenty-three years old.
Fittingly his first words are prayers that he is said to have said over and over again.
Prayer of St. Francis
Most High, glorious God
Illumine the darkness of my heart,
Give me a right faith,
a certain hope and
a perfect charity
and grant me insight
so I can always observe your holy and true command.
There is no activity that Francis liked better than prayer which became for him always his first concern. Thus Francis ordered his followers to pray regularly. He told them that when they spoke with God in prayer not only were their inner feelings purified but they could attain union with the one true and highest God and even actually hear Him.
Most High, Glorious God
Francis who remains a knight at heart begins his prayer in this chivalrous courteous address of praise. In fact it is said that his prayers almost always begins and ends in praise thus making his prayers one of adoration.
Because praise and adoration makes up the core of Francis’ prayer he is able in this way to unite prayer and love enabling him to put on the mind of Christ.
The words Most High recognizes the infinite distance between God and him and in typical Francis’ humility acknowledges his nothingness before the Most High God.
It is a true humility because Francis is neither looking down upon himself nor even demeaning himself for he knows he has been chosen by God to be simple and unlearned. Rather he is admitting that God is God and he, Francis, is not; so his prayer is for the Most High to take the initiative with him. In time this perspective will affect everything he will do and become.
This deep and earnest prayer of Francis is addressed to the “Most High”, a term that we find him using over and over again the rest of his life.
When he wrote the Rule for the Franciscan order he founded, he ended it saying:
“All powerful, most holy, most high and supreme God. . .
Let all of us. . . magnify and give thanks to the most
high and supreme eternal God. . .
glorious, exalted on high, sublime, most high. . .”
An excerpt from his famous “Canticle of the Sun,” the great poem of his life that he sings in ecstasy and gratitude when he was nearing death says:
“Most High, all-powerful Good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor
and all blessing.
Illumine the darkness of my heart
Francis loved to pray for the light which would shine through the darkness of his heart which would cleanse it and the rest would follow. Thus he was constantly asking God for enlightenment over the darkness and ignorance that causes him not see aright.
In a great moment of enlightenment Francis could put on the mind of Christ and finally see the world as God sees it: That poverty will ultimately bring him the greatest and sweetest joy and content.
Give me a right faith, a certain hope
When Francis dictated the memories of his youth to Brother Leo in the Porziuncula he said:
“And he the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would simply pray and say: We adore thee O Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the world. . . after that the Lord gave me and He gives me so much faith in priests . . . I am unwilling to see sin in them because in them I see the Son of God and they are my lords.”
a perfect charity
The priest translated the first passage that Francis had opened at random in the book of the Gospels: “If thou hast an eye to be perfect, go then and sell all that belongs to thee; give it to the poor and so the treasure that thou hast shall be in heaven, then come back and follow me.”
and grant me insight
The mind of Francis was preoccupied with the paradox that in detachment, poverty and penance were perfect joy to be found. True joy derives from seeking first the Kingdom of God.
God gave him also the insight to realize that it is not war that needs to be outlawed but the love of money, the greed of the human heart that is at the root of war.
Untrained, unlettered and with a minimum of knowledge of what a preacher normally should know, Francis prayed unceasingly and continually not trusting in his own strength or wisdom but relying wholly on God; so he was granted the wisdom to grasp that the love of neighbor can only be secured when the Gospel is lived sincerely, when the Word of God moves people to make decisions that radically changes their lives.
Thus Francis instructed all his followers:
“Make all of your time a holy leisure in which to inscribe wisdom in your heart.”
So I can always observe your holy and true command
All the things that Francis prays for in this prayer – light to the darkness of his heart; faith, hope, charity, insight and wisdom are – so he can observe God’s holy and true command.
Francis’ only desire was to be obedient to God’s will in everything. Thus placing God’s will above everything else is a gift of Francis to our world today. So is his simple but eloquent first words.
SOURCES of REFERENCE
ST. FRANCIS of ASSISI
Butlers Lives of the Saints – Vol. IV pp 22 – 32
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of SAINTS – pp 148 – 149
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp 195 – 196
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – pp 90 – 92
A Calendar of Saints – p 197
All Saints – pp 432 – 433
A Year With the Saints – October 4
Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp 469 – 412
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I pp 448 – 451
My First Book of Saints – pp 232 – 234
Saint Companions – pp 371 – 374
Saints for Our Time – pp 371 – 374
Saints of the Day – pp 266 – 267
Children’s Book of Saints – pp 205 – 210
Saints – A Visual Guide – pp 214 – 215
Voices of the Saints – pp 360 – 361
Ordinary People Extraordinary Lives – Group 7 Card 2
The Everything Saints Book – pp 90 – 91
The Lion Treasury of Saints – pp 140 – 141
The Flying Friar – pp 74 – 77
Servants of God – pp 28 – 29
Best-Love Saints – pp 74 – 79
The Way of the Saints – pp 172 – 173
Book of Saints – Part 6 – pp 20 – 21
Novenas – pp 58 61
Saints Ancient and Modern – p 80 – 87
Francis of Assisi and Teresa Kolkata – pp 13 – 15; pp 22 – 25