800 Franciscan Years


The Franciscan Order includes men and women who profess to observe the Rule of Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226). Francis founded three orders: the Friars Minor, the Poor Ladies or Clares, and the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, generally referred to as the First, Second, and Third Orders of St. Francis. The Friars Minor or Grey Friars is the best known group. They take a vow of poverty, so that all their time and energy can be expended on religious work in service to a community, rather than through cloistered asceticism like monks.

The Friars Minor were created in 1209, when St. Francis obtained from Pope Innocent III an unwritten approbation of the simple rule he had written to guide his first companions. This rule has not come down to us in its original form. It was subsequently rewritten by the saint and solemnly confirmed by Pope Honorius III in 1223: “To observe the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience without anything of our own, and in chastity.”

Francis is also the alleged author of one of the most beautiful Christian prayers. The earliest record of the prayer dates from 1912 in La Clochette, a small devotional French publication. The prayer was first attributed to him in 1927 by Les Chevaliers du Prince de la Paix (The Knights of the Prince of Peace), a Protestant group. The prayer is now well established within the Catholic Church. Here is the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
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.