Why are modern prayers attributed to famous or historical figures?

by maggi dawn

Yesterday I posted the prayer that is commonly attributed to Sir Francis Drake, though highly unlikely to have been written by him. Inspired by him, maybe? So far I haven’t found any clear provenance for the prayer but from its linguistic style I would guess it’s no older than 15-20 years. If you know anything about it, do let me know!

It’s well known that the internet is humming with misquotes and false attributions. But a number of prayers that pre-date the internet are incorrectly attributed to famed or historical figures. Why would that be?

The Prayer of St Francis (Lord, make me a channel of your peace) was first published in French in 1912. The story of how the prayer came about is here, but I have not yet discovered why it became attributed to Francis. Does anyone know how that happened?

The prayer of Oscar Romero (“We are ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own,”) was written by an American priest, Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, to be included in the draft of a homily given by Cardinal John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. Five months later Romero was assassinated, which may account for how the prayer became linked with him. Untener later wrote in a book of reflections a piece for the anniversary of Romero’s martyrdom, entitled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer,” the mystery being that though the words of the prayer are attributed to Romero, they were neither written nor spoken by him. Close to his death, he told the story of the prayer’s provenance in a letter to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who reported the story In the March 28, 2004 edition of the National Catholic Reporter.   More on the story here.

“The Prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero” – by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.
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