True Lies and Beautiful [False] Attributions

Things St. Francis Never Said "preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words"

“Preach the Gospel Always, And Put Words Into The Mouths Of Saints When Applicable.”

One of my favorite quotes by St. Francis of Assisi is probably the only one you know.  “Preach the gospel always, use words [only] when necessary.”  I think it sums up a lot of the Christian ideal in many ways, particularly in an age in which people tend to put their feet in their mouths when seeking to defend the faith (or what they perceive as the faith, but which may or may not actually be the faith; e.g., insisting in a literal reading of Genesis 1 and/or Genesis 2).

There’s just one problem:  It seems that St. Francis never said it, or so claims Glen Stanton, who says the closest he can find to this quote in the works of St. Francis is this from his Rule of 1221, Chapter XII on how the Franciscans should practice their preaching:

No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister . . . All the Friars . . . should preach by their deeds.

So, basically, let your words and actions line up.  It’s a good message, but it doesn’t seem to be correctly attributed to St. Francis.

Sorry if that just crushed your world.  Allow me to kick you while you’re down.

“The Truth is Like a Lion: Tell Everyone There’s One in the Next Room and They’ll Believe You Often Enough to not Check.”

I’ve spent a lot of time reading Augustine in recent years.  I kind of developed a man-crush on the saint, who has so many amazing quotes that you could easily fill books just with snippets of text and have a multi-volume series.

I have not read everything Augustine ever wrote.  99.996% of people who claim to have are lying.  That man wrote.  And wrote.  And wrote.  Books.  Sermons.  Treatises.  Etc.

So I was not surprised when I encountered a quote that sounded wonderful, even though I couldn’t place it.

St. Augustine Quote The Truth Is like A Lion you don't have to defend it let it loose it will defend itself

Magnificent!  Truly.  We are a people of Truth.  One of the things that woo’ed me to Catholicism was the consistent reverence for reason and truth — far more than any of the Dawkinsite crowd would ever dream, or even show themselves.  I’ll blog about that in particular later.  But this quote summed up all of that in one pithy little, Aslan-adorned image.

But there’s only one problem.

I couldn’t find it anywhere in Augustine.

Nor could I find it anywhere on Google, except as attributed above.  No source was given.  No Date.  No cryptic reference to a book or a letter or a sermon.

So I tried searching for the quote in parts.  “Is like a lion.  You don’t have to defend it.”  Eventually my searching turned up a very similar quote from Pastor Chuck Spurgeon:

The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.

Moreover, I can find references to this quote years before I can find references to the Augustine quote.  So, as much as I’d love to think that Spurgeon was paraphrasing Augustine, alas, I think it was the other way around (note: I am open to correction on this point, and would gladly receive it should someone find this quote in Augustine somewhere!)

Comparing False Quotes

I must admit that the Augustine quote is in some ways more believable than the St. Francis quote.  Francis actually wrote a fair amount, so he used words often.  Now, many monastic traditions valued highly silence (for an AMAZING exploration of life under such a vow of silence, see the multiple award winning film, Into Great Silence.)  Certainly there is a real need to use words, so long as they’re chosen well (or supplied by the Spirit).  But the Augustine quote does smack of the truth, and in a sense, the real quote from Spurgeon is saying essentially the same thing, for what is “the Word of God” but Truth?

Alas, there are probably dozens of other attributed quotes that I accept as “gospel,” including a few from founding fathers that I cherished until I found them to have been falsified.

The truth can defend itself, but gullibility and falsehoods can devour credibility.



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