This is a line from a letter that Saint Francis of Assisi wrote to his Friars in 1225 toward the end of his life. It is from a prayer that ends the letter to his brothers in the faith. The full prayer is:
Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God, give us scoundrels your grace to do for you what we know you want from us, and always to do that which is pleasing to you. May we be inwardly purified, interiorly illumined, and kindled by the fire of the Holy Ghost, so that we are able to follow in the footsteps of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by your grace alone make our way to you, the Most High, who live and reign in perfect Trinity and simple unity and glory, God almighty forever and ever. Amen.
I have come back to the words of Francis recently. I’m not sure why, but from time to time I come back to Francis, Benedict, and other saints looking for inspiration and even challenge. While Francis is not really known for his words and more for his way of life and charisma; I find hope, simplicity, and even challenge in his words. The prayer above includes the unique word scoundrel in reference to the Friars. The word means a dishonest or unscrupulous person or a rogue, rascal, or cheat. Not the words that I would use when thinking about Franciscans in the past or today. I’m not sure if this would have won over Francis’ brothers, but I have read time and again that Francis was serious about keeping a tight observance of the rule, living humbly, and coming back to grace.
Francis was serious about always coming back to grace, a gift of God that we don’t deserve. It all begins with God’s action in our lives. For some odd reason, the word scoundrel spoke to me about me. Too often I feel like a rogue or rascal in my attempt to follow the Gospel. I water down the Gospel. I attempt to explain or rationalize it away. This prayer reminds me to ask for grace. “Give us scoundrels your grace,” the prayer continues and not just grace, but to “do for you what we know you want from us, and always to do that which is pleasing to you.”
I wonder what church would be like if we prayed liked this. I realize that the Friars were living in a tight knit community, as it was a part of their rule of life and order. In church, we don’t live in that sort of community, but I believe we’re still in need of the same grace. It’s easy to ask for God the grace we need in our lives, but I have sensed recently God nudging me to offer grace to others. We become frustrated, judgmental, and even resentful in community, so maybe we should pray together, in unison, “Give us scoundrels your grace.”
This prayer reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Timothy, where he described himself as the “chief sinner” or “worst of all” or “biggest sinner of them all.” This is in line with the statement by Francis I believe. Perhaps it could change the church today as well. What if we all prayed with humility and sincerity, “Give us scoundrels your grace”? I believe it
would change the church community for those within and without the family of believers. We’re all just scoundrels in need of grace. Let’s confess this and move toward the desire of pleasing God in all things.
The translation for this prayer is from Jon Sweeney’s book Francis of Assisi: The Essential Writings.
The icon in this blog is one of my favorite icons of Francis of Assisi. It is in my prayer book that I use daily.