Dec 01 2017

Francis of Assisi – Prayer Inspired by the Our Father

Published by at 9:06 am under Poetry

Prayer Inspired by the Our Father
by Francis of Assisi

English version by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP & Ignatius C. Brady, OFM

O OUR most holy FATHER,
Our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler, and Savior

WHO ARE IN HEAVEN:
In the angels and in the saints,
Enlightening them to love, because You, Lord, are light
Inflaming them to love, because You, Lord, are love
Dwelling in them and filling them with happiness,
      because You, Lord, are the Supreme Good,
            the Eternal Good
      from Whom comes all good
      without Whom there is no good.

HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME:
May our knowledge of You become ever clearer
That we may know the breadth of Your blessings
      the length of Your promises
      the height of Your majesty
      the depths of Your judgments

YOUR KINGDOM COME:
So that You may rule in us through Your grace
and enable us to come to Your kingdom
      where there is an unclouded vision of You
            a perfect love of You
            a blessed companionship with You
            an eternal enjoyment of You

YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN:
That we may love you with our whole heart by always thinking of You
            with our whole soul by always desiring You
            with our whole mind by directing all our
                  intentions to You and by seeking Your
                  glory in everything
            and with our whole strength by spending all our
                  energies and affections
                  of soul and body
                  in the service of Your love
                  and of nothing else
and may we love our neighbors as ourselves
      by drawing them all with our whole strength to Your love
      by rejoicing in the good fortunes of others as well as our own
      and by sympathizing with the misfortunes of others
      and by giving offense to no one

GIVE US THIS DAY:
in memory and understanding and reverence
      of the love which our Lord Jesus Christ had for us
      and of those things which He said and did and suffered for us
OUR DAILY BREAD
Your own Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ

AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES:
Through Your ineffable mercy
through the power of the Passion of Your Beloved Son
      together with the merits and intercession of the Blessed Virgin
                  Mary and all Your chosen ones

AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US:
And whatever we do not forgive perfectly,
do you, Lord, enable us to forgive to the full
so that we may truly love our enemies
and fervently intercede for them before You
returning no one evil for evil
and striving to help everyone in You

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Hidden or obvious
Sudden or persistent

BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Past, present and to come.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

— from Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality, Translated by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP / Translated by Ignatius C. Brady, OFM


/ Image by cogdogblog /

I know many of you will instinctively react against this selection’s tone. It might have too much of a Sunday school savor for your taste.

I personally find this beautiful and fascinating. It is a line-by-line meditation of The Lord’s Prayer, that most central prayer of Christianity. But this isn’t just one more devotional Christian poem; this is by St. Francis of Assisi! This poem gives us a unique window into his inner life of prayer. When this greatly beloved saint said his “Our Father” prayer, this is what each line meant to him. This is what he wanted everyone to understand through reciting that essential prayer of the Christian world.

A figure like Francis transcends Christian tradition. His simplicity, his radical commitment to love, his connection to nature, even his sense of humor have made him one of the most loved spiritual figures throughout the world. So let’s set aside the more overtly Christian references, if they make you uncomfortable. What is he revealing here that perhaps you’ve never found in the lines of The Lord’s Prayer before?

A few observations of my own:

HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME:
May our knowledge of You become ever clearer

To Francis, “hallowing” the name of God is not some pious formula of respect. To him, it is about cultivating deep, intimate knowledge of God. It is personal. It is about clarity and transformation within the individual’s own awareness.

YOUR KINGDOM COME…

YOUR WILL BE DONE…

These days, unfortunately, it is difficult not to read these lines through the clouded filter of hardline Christian literalists, who understand them as a divine mandate for theocracy and might. But notice how Francis reads these lines. He keeps mentioning love. The kingdom he sees is one of love for God, divine vision, nearness to God, and blissful delight:

where there is an unclouded vision of You
            a perfect love of You
            a blessed companionship with You
            an eternal enjoyment of You

And, to Francis, the Divine Will is fulfilled, not through force, but again — through love. This is the mystic’s passionate, burning love that consumes all else:

…by spending all our
                  energies and affections
                  of soul and body
                  in the service of Your love
                  and of nothing else

But, for Francis, this isn’t an exclusive, esoteric sort of love that cuts one off from the rest of the world. In seeing the Divine everywhere, in everyone, our love for God must expand in all directions, find a home in every person and in all things. He recalls to us that oft quoted and sadly underapplied injunction by Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves:

and may we love our neighbors as ourselves
      by drawing them all with our whole strength to Your love
      by rejoicing in the good fortunes of others as well as our own
      and by sympathizing with the misfortunes of others
      and by giving offense to no one

In Francis’s vision, the Kingdom is one of love, community, compassion, service.

We are given a challenge — to participate, but with a humble, open heart.

AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US:
And whatever we do not forgive perfectly,
do you, Lord, enable us to forgive to the full
so that we may truly love our enemies
and fervently intercede for them before You
returning no one evil for evil
and striving to help everyone in You

Forget the centuries worth of theology and dusty debate. Whether you seek comfort and help from the Virgin Mary or Kuan Yin or Durga, whether you seek light and guidance from Christ or the Prophet Muhammad, Shiva or the Boddhisattvas; the Eternal encompasses every name that is called, every rite followed… and is not wounded by another’s choice.

In this Kingdom, the key that grants entrance is not what sectarians think it is. This Kingdom is not for Christians, but for the Christ-like, regardless of religious tradition. The price of citizenship is not adherence to a creed, but possession of a love so all-consuming that no hatred can remain, no tally sheet can be kept, no person and no being is left outside the circle of your heart.


Recommended Books: Francis of Assisi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time
More Books >>


Francis of Assisi, Francis of Assisi poetry, Christian poetry Francis of Assisi

Italy (1181 – 1226) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Often called the Povorello or “Poor Little Man” for his love of radical simplicity and identification with the poor.

St. Francis of Assisi himself was a great lover of French Troubadour songs and traditions. Though he lived and taught within the Catholic Church, elements of Cathar and Troubadour spirituality can be seen in his own radiant ministry: his love of nature (particularly the sun and the moon), his vision of a divine woman, and his relationship with St. Clare (which was very much in the tradition of the chaste Lover-Beloved relationship espoused by the Troubadour ideal of courtly love.)

Francis was born in 1181 or 1182 to a prosperous merchant family in Assisi, Italy. His father, Pietro Bernadone, was on a business trip in France when the child was born and he was upset on his return to find out that the child was initially baptized with the name Giovanni after the ascetic John the Baptist. Pietro Bernadone wanted a worldly son, someone who would one day take over his business of trading in fine cloths, so he renamed his son Francesco, “the Frenchman,” for Pietro was enamored with all things French.

As Francis grew up, his natural charisma and joy attracted people to him, becoming the leader of a raucous group of young men. He led an easy life, taking full advantage of his family’s wealth and the permissiveness of the times.

Francis shared his father’s love of France. He was particularly drawn to the songs of mystical romance brought to Italy by the Provencal Troubadours.

There were many key events in Francis’s early life that led, ultimately, to a profound spiritual change in the young man:

Francis’s father dreamed of more than wealth for the young man, he wanted his son to be elevated to nobility. Showing valor in war was the most likely way to accomplish this; and soon the opportunity presented itself when Assisi declared war against its neighboring town Perugia.

The war went badly for Assisi and most of its young men were killed, except for the wealthy who were captured and held for ransom. Francis spent a year in a dungeon before he was released.

On his return to Assisi, Francis resumed his life of revelry.

Next, a call went out for soldiers in the Fourth Crusade. Francis, his mind filled with romantic stories and aspirations for glory, bought a fine horse and had an elaborate suit of armor made — and he left for war.

But he didn’t get more than a day’s ride away. He had a powerful dream in which God told him that he must return home, which he did. This was a stunning action that was interpreted by the townspeople as cowardice. His father was outraged at the family’s humiliation and the money wasted on his armor.

Francis began to turn inward, devoting increasing time to prayer and quietly wandering through the countryside.

During this time, Francis forced himself to overcome his lifelong revulsion of leprosy by kissing the hand of a man afflicted with leprosy.

While praying at the dilapidated church of San Damiano, Francis heard Christ speak to him, telling him to “repair my church.” Francis took this literally, assuming it applied to the small church he was praying in, and began immediately to rebuild its crumbling walls. (Only later would this command be understood as a call to rebuild the spiritual foundations of the Church, with a capital “C”.) To pay for his new endeavors, he sold his father’s cloth and used the money he gained.

This was the final straw for Francis’s father. Before the bishop and the town, Pietro Bernadone demanded that his son return the stolen money and renounce his rights as heir. Francis surprised everyone by going so far as to strip himself naked in the town square and declaring that he would live by God’s grace alone from that point forward — this from the wild young man who had led gangs of carousing boys through the streets!

Francis’s natural charisma didn’t leave him, even as he adopted a life of prayer, radical poverty, and service to the sick and the poor. Followers quickly gathered about him. Many were his former friends, the sons of wealthy and noble families.

Soon, the numbers of his followers had grown to such an extent that things grew political within the Church. His mystical nature, his popularity with the poor, and his insistence on Christ’s poverty was not well liked by many within the Church, for it seemed to ally him with other mendicant esoteric groups that had been declared heretical because they criticized the Church’s wealth and abandonment of the poor.

In order to keep his followers from suffering a similar fate of suppression, he had to make it clear that he was well within the Church orthodoxy. He had to navigate a careful path of maintaining his essential message while avoiding overt criticism of Church excesses. He also had to seek formal recognition of his order by the Pope, which he finally got.

Contrary to many modern social movements, Francis didn’t attempt to abolish poverty, he embraced it, seeking to ennoble it, show it as a pathway to the spiritual life.

As Francis’s brotherhood continued to grow, increasing pressure was applied by the Church to control it further, and a new, more formalized rule had to be developed. In order to maintain his spiritual simplicity and surrender to God, Francis finally had to give up control of his order and leave its governance to others who were more willing to play the political games that must follow.

Francis’s health was never good, and it worsened as he returned to a simple life of prayer and retreat. He began to go blind, as well. During this time he received the stigmata while praying among some caves in the countryside.

It was also during this time that Francis composed his masterpiece, the Canticle of the Sun, praising the beauty and holiness of nature as a reflection of the Divine. At the time, Latin was the language of both the Church and of learning. Yet, as part of Francis’s humility and affinity with the common people, he composed his masterpiece, The Canticle of Brother Sun, in simple Italian, considered one of the first great poems in the language.

Francis died in 1226 at the age of 45 and was immediately acclaimed to be a saint by the general population.

More poetry by Francis of Assisi

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply