St. Augustine: No Son without suffering

God had one Son on earth without sin, but none without suffering.

Attr. St. Augustine
  • It doesn’t sound to me like him, but I’ve been wrong before.
  • A general search on the web returns all the usual suspect sites that carry unverified quotes without citations.
  • Wikiquote has it on the discussion page as unsourced.
  • Google Books: a trip through time:
    • It’s on a list of copyrighted works from 1953 (I think someone made a card with that on it and copyrighted the card).
    • It’s in the Kindergarten-primary Magazine from 1920 (vol. 32, p. 224). At this point I can conclude that if it is faux, it is at least long-standing faux.
    • It’s in the 1892 edition of (I’m not making this up) The International Good Templar (vol. 5, p. 324). No citation, of course.
    • The Christian Week, Dec. 31, 1879. This was the oldest hit I got from Google Books (I didn’t list them all), and it doesn’t give a source, which suggests that it was a well-known saying at the time.
  • Searching CCEL for the phrase turned up nothing.
  • As a last desperate attempt, I tried searching the complete Latin works of St. Augustine, available here. I guessed that “without suffering” would either be sine patienta or sine dolore. I got nearly 300 results for each search, but none of those results was the alleged quotation

Conclusion: If it’s faux, it’s old-school faux, but I think that faux it is indeed.

Pope Francis on ways to fast

Fast from hurting words and say kind words. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience. Fast from pessimism and be filled with love. Fast from worries and have trust in God. Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity. Fast from pressure and be prayerful. Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy. Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others. Fast from grudges and be reconciled. Fast from words and be silent as you listen.

Attributed to Pope Francis

Some places (including the USCCB website) say that this is from Pope Francis. Others, more cautiously, say it’s attributed to him. Is he in fact responsible for it?

  1. It is All. Over. The. Internet. attributed to him. I looked at the first few pages of Google hits. None of them said when or where he said or wrote this. The earliest sighting was written 2016; I also found a site that claimed it was from Pope Francis’ 2020 Lenten message, which it obviously can’t be.
  2. A search on the Vatican website shows nothing.
  3. I started searching for key words: sadness gratitude anger patience pessimism love worries trust complaints simplicity. At this point I discovered that there’s a variant form that has “hope” in place of “love.” I looked at the first eight pages of Google hits. None gave a source.

I am fairly confident that, if this were legitimately said or written by Pope Francis, I wouldn’t have to wade through nine pages of Google search results to find it, and that it would be on the Vatican website. I would be happier if I could find an earlier identifiable source, but since no one can say when the pope said it, I’m going to say that he didn’t. If I’m wrong, give me a primary source.

St. Thomas on the prayerless soul

The prayerless soul makes no progress whatever.

Attr. St. Thomas Aquinas

After a little poking around, I found this:

Some of the Angelic Doctor’s neat sayings caught in familiar conversation have been preserved. “The poverty of a discontented religious is a useless expense.” “The prayerless soul makes no progress whatever.” “A religious without prayer resembles a soldier fighting without weapons.” “Idleness is the devil’s hook, on which any bait is tempting.” “I cannot understand how anyone conscious of mortal sin can laugh or be merry.” When asked how to detect a spiritual-minded man, he gave this reply: “He who is constantly chattering about frivolous things, who fears being despised, who is weary of life, whatever marvels he may work, I do not look on him as a perfect man, since all he does is without foundation, and he who cannot suffer is ready for a fall”. To his sister Theodora, inquiring how to become a saint, he replied with a single word, “Velle,” or “Resolve”.

The source is a 1911 biography of St. Thomas, but that’s good enough for me to regard this as probably an authentic tradition.

And this is the reason I almost always ask people in Confession if they’re praying daily….

St. Thomas Aquinas: Love them both

We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.

Attr. St. Thomas Aquinas

This seems to be the quote du jour for the feast of St. Thomas this year (e.g., in eye-wrenching typography from Word on Fire). But is it authentic?

Yes and no and sort of. After poking around for a bit, I found a good treatment of the question.

TL;DR: It’s attributed to “a commentary on Aristotle” all over the Internet, but St. Thomas wrote a lot of those. I managed to track it down (via the above link) to Sententia super Metaphysicam 12.9.14 (2566). It turns out the the saint is quoting Aristotle, who said this:

And if anyone in treating this subject should be found to form a different opinion from the one stated here, we must respect both views but accept the more certain

Alternative translation: and if those who apply themselves to these matters come to some conclusion which clashes with what we have just stated, we must appreciate both views, but follow the more accurate.

It seems to me that the more accurate view is that Aristotle and St. Thomas are referring to opinions rather than directly to people.

So (a) it’s a statement which St. Thomas is endorsing rather than something that he came up with on his own; (b) it refers to opinions and not to people (IMHO).

St. John Paul II: Anger and Tears

It’s better to cry than to be angry; because anger hurts others, while tears flow silently through the soul and cleanse the heart.

Attr. St. John Paul II

A lot of people who have shared this struggle with the word “cleanse.” I’ve seen it as “cleans” and as “cleanses,” both of which are obviously wrong.

  1. It fails the ear test, though admittedly I am highly suspicious. It just doesn’t sound like St. JP II to me.
  2. I went through 10 pages of Google search results, finding all the usual suspects (“quote” aggregator sites, Facebook, Pinterest, et al.), none of which gave a citation. There were lots more results, but I figured if there wasn’t a citation on the first 10 pages, there wasn’t likely to be one later. The earliest dated sighting of this attributed to St. JP II (or, for that matter, to anyone at all) is from 2012.
  3. I searched the Vatican web site. No dice.
  4. I searched the EWTN web site, hoping at least to discover a source for the original erroneous attribution. (Love you, EWTN, but you’ve done this to me before.) No dice.
  5. Google Books turned up no citations either.

I would be happier if I could run the original saying to ground, but as it is, I’m going to call this one “unlikely.”

Edit to add: A comment below suggests (I think) that the author is actually Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński.

St. Francis: hands, head, heart

He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.

Attr. St. Francis of Assisi

I’m not sure why this is attributed to St. Francis, since it has little to do with anything he was interested in. Wikiquote says: “This quote was actually composed by Louis Nizer, and published in his book, Between You and Me (1948).” I did some checking and I can’t verify this citation directly (Google Books won’t do a full book search), but I did find it attributed to him elsewhere. But I can also find it given as “an old saying” in a 1944 publication. I certainly didn’t find any place giving an actual citation to St. Francis (as in, saying where it came from).

Verdict: Not St. Francis.

C. S. Lewis and running towards a cliff

When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.

Attr. C. S. Lewis

Attributed to CSL, but not by him. The invaluable William O’Flaherty of “Confirming C. S. Lewis” says on his FB group that it can’t be found in Lewis and that its earliest appearance as a CSL “quotation” is 1997. O’Flaherty has digital editions of Lewis’s oeuvre, so he is quite likely correct. For what it’s worth, I looked around a little on Google Books and couldn’t find it in Lewis either.

Pope St. John XXIII and your dreams

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.

Attr. to Pope St. John XXIII

A Google search turned up the usual suspects, none with citations (at least in the first few pages of results). Wikiquote has it on the “Unsourced” list on the discussion page for Pope St. John XXIII. It mostly doesn’t appear in books before about 2000. The oldest citation I can find is in The Ligourian for 1972, which is only available in snippet view, so I can’t see the full context.

Since no one at Wikiquote could find a real source, and since I couldn’t either, and since this sounds more like pop psych than anything else, I’m going to call it doubtful. If anyone has access to The Ligourian, I’d love to know what it says.

How to avoid fauxtations

Several people have told me, either in person or via the internet, that they’re a little shy about putting up possible quotations for fear that they might be fauxtations. I realize not everyone is interested in chasing down every quote’s source before posting it, but here are a few things you can do quickly to cut down your chances of appearing on Fauxtations:

  1. Check the fauxtations blog. It’s got a handy search box, tags, and other such amenities.
  2. Apply the ear test. If it sounds like a modern-day motivational speaker, it probably wasn’t said by a saint. If it sounds like a greeting card, it probably wasn’t said by a saint (St. Mother Teresa and St. Thérèse can sound a little Hallmark-y at times, especially if taken out of context).
  3. Check Wikiquote, and make sure you didn’t hit one of the pages where someone used secondary sources (“quoted by Joe Smith in Things St. Francis Said“). To be double sure, you can go to the discussion tab (not visible on the mobile site) and see if it’s discussed there.

It takes more to guarantee a non-fauxtation, but those three tests will catch a good number of fauxtations.

Special bonus:
If the alleged quote is from C. S. Lewis, try this page: http://www.essentialcslewis.com/confirming-c-s-lewis-quotations-series-overview/
If it’s from St. Mother Teresa, try this page (but be aware that the bottom half of the page contains paraphrases, and it’s hard to know how far the alleged paraphrase varies from what she actually said): https://www.motherteresa.org/08_info/Quotesf.html

Augustine: God loves each of us

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

Attr. St. Augustine

This comes in various paraphrases, but what they all have in common is that they aren’t quite what St. Augustine said (the level of quiteness varies from paraphrase to paraphrase). Someone has done most of the legwork for me in this blog post.

The saying appears to originate in St. Augustine’s Confessions, 3.11.19, where he says this:

O thou Omnipotent Good, thou carest for every one of us as if thou didst care for him only, and so for all as if they were but one! (Tr. Albert C. Outler)

In Latin, that’s o tu bone omnipotens, qui sic curas unumquemque nostrum tamquam solum cures, et sic omnes tamquam singulos

I leave it to the reader to decide whether or not the saying at the top of this post is an acceptable paraphrase.