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Prayer of St. Francis

posted Oct 3, 2015, 6:33 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Oct 3, 2015, 6:33 AM ]
The most famous musical setting of this prayer comes from Johann Sebastian von Tempelhoff. Born in 1928, he grew up a Scientologist in Pretoria, South Africa, then moved to London to work for the BBC on news broadcasts relating to South Africa. He converted to Catholicism, becoming a Franciscan, and became a prolific singer and songwriter of worship music under the name Sebastian Temple.

Though it’s written in the style of the teachings of the 13th-century St. Francis of Assisi, it was discovered in 2001 that the text of this prayer can really only be traced back to 1912, when it was printed in a French magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell), published by La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The Holy Mass League). The author's name wasn’t given, although it may have been the group’s founder, Fr. Esther Bouquerel. Its first known English translation appeared in the 1927 Quaker magazine Friends Intelligencer, who mistakenly called it "A prayer of St. Francis of Assisi". Senator Albert W. Hawkes and Cardinal Francis Spellman liked it, and distributed millions of copies of it during World War II, causing it to become widely known as that.

Currently published in twenty-one different hymnals, the Sebastian Temple version we sing is an anthem of the Royal British Legion and is sung every November at the Service of Remembrance at Royal Albert Hall. The Westminster Abbey Choir sang it at Princess Diana’s funeral, and it was sung by Sinéad O'Connor on the Princess Diana tribute album. Susan Boyle recorded it on her CD The Gift, and sang it live in 2010 for Pope Benedict XVI in Glasgow.