Monday, November 21, 2011

St. Francis of Assisi: Another Patron Saint of Alcoholics?

[St. Francis of Assisi is perhaps most typically thought of as the patron saint of animals, ecology, and peace. But according to the recovering alcoholic quoted in the article below by Fr. Joe, we might add "patron of alcoholics," not because St. Francis was an alcoholic but because of the peace prayer attributed to him (see "Note" below). This prayer is included in the chapter about the 11th step of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous in the book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (page 99). According to the editor of this book, which was written by Bill Wilson, co-founder of A.A., Tom Powers is said to have commented that Bill W. considered St. Francis as the patron saint of Alcoholics Anonymous (

While Venerable Matt Talbot may not have been aware of this prayer, St. Francis of Assisi was an important model for Matt as he joined the
Third Order of St. Francis, known today as the Franciscan Secular Order, in 1890, six years into recovery.]

"St. Francis: Patron of Drunks"

Fr. Joe Tonos

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A while back, a woman came to me and said she wasn't Catholic but she had a devotion to St. Francis. Thinking that she, like many others, knew of St. Francis as the "patron saint of yard ornaments, "I was waiting to hear what she had to say. She then surprised me and said, "He's the patron saint of drunks!" I had not heard that before.
She then explained that in the twelve step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), St. Francis' "Peace Prayer" is offered as a prayer to those who are recovering. His prayer is used in the context of "self-searching" on the way to being a better person. His prayer is in the "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" book of AA. The woman was a recovering alcoholic.

Here's an excerpt from the book:

First let’s look at a really good prayer. We won’t have far to seek; the great men and women of all religions have left us a wonderful supply. Here let us consider one that is a classic.

Its author was a man who for several hundred years now as been rated as a saint. We won’t be biased or scared off by that fact, because although he was not an alcoholic he id, like us, go through the emotional wringer. And as he came out the other side of that painful experience, this prayer was his expression of what he could then see, feel, and wish to become:

“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace—that where there is hatred, I may bring love—that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness—that where there is discord, I may bring harmony—that where there is error, I may bring truth—that where there is doubt, I may bring faith—that where there is despair, I may bring hope—that where there are shadows, I may bring light—that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted—to under­stand, than to be understood—to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.”
As beginners in meditation, we might now reread this prayer several times very slowly, savoring every word and trying to take in the deep meaning of each phrase and idea.

Click here for the direct reference.

The woman concluded her praise of the saint with this, and I paraphrase, "St. Francis was an irascible, ill-tempered man when he could be and he once wrote that, 'When I am at my worst, when I am at odds with everyone and everything, it is then I pause and give God thanks because he has shown me what I would be without his grace.' She then peaceably with a smile said, "He understands us alcoholics."

In response to this posted article, one person stated that "ÄA relies a lot on the St. Francis prayer to remove the alcoholic from his selfish, self-centered ways. Living the AA program is to live a life of service, a life devoted to helping all children of God."

Note: Two sources that dispute that St. Francis was the author of the Peace Prayer can be found at and