No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.
Attr. (correctly) to C. S. Lewis.
A friend asked me about this one on Facebook. It has the ring of authenticity to it, and like most authentic quotes (though not all) it only took a few minutes to verify. It’s from his essay “On Stories.” Full context:
It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one’s adult enjoyment of what are called ‘children’s books’. I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty–except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not much care for crême de menthe: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.
Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.
Attr. to C. S. Lewis.
The word “reciprocity” gives it a certain credibility, raising it above the level of a common meme. But that doesn’t make it authentic.
- A Google search turns up the usual citation-less suspects.
- Wikiquote doesn’t have it, even on the discussion page of disputed quotes.
- Searching Google Books for the entire quotation with the author restricted to C. S. Lewis returns no hits. This is pretty telling because Google Books can search everything C. S. Lewis wrote. Just to be sure, I tried searching for the word reciprocity in a few books (e.g., The Four Loves, The Weight of Glory), but it’s not there. Just for good measure, I tried searching Google Books for the whole quotation with Lewis’s name at the end. No dice. It’s still possible this is something he wrote or said that’s not in any of his books, but ….
- I found a much more likely source. It’s attributed in various places to Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Latter Days Saints (Mormons). Tracing that down led me to this page, where the actual quotation appears to be: “However, never underestimate the power of privately extending a simple, loving, but direct challenge. Though it may not be reciprocated, such love is never wasted.” I can see how that got lifted out of context and meme-ified, giving the quote as we have it today. How it got attributed to CSL, I couldn’t say.
Bottom line: Not findable in Lewis’s works, but a variant form found somewhere else. I’m going to call this one fake.
As I posted a few weeks ago, Trent Horn has a new book out entitled What the Saints Never Said: Pious Misquotes and the Subtle Heresies They Teach You. My copy has arrived, and I have read it, and here are my thoughts for anyone who’s interested:
First of all, I’m very pleased that the problem of the false “quotation” (Horn probably wisely doesn’t use my hideous neologism, “fauxtation”) is getting wider attention. Horn gives three reasons why false quotations are a real problem:
- The truth matters.
- Credit should be given where credit is due.
- Sometimes the fake quotations are not merely fake, but very wrong (e.g., the C. S. Lewis one about bodies and souls).
I would add at least a fourth, which is that the fauxtations obscure the reality of the saint (or other person) who said them. The image you’d get of St. Francis based on Internet memes, for example, has a lot to do with sentiment and motivational speaking, and very little to do with one of the most passionate followers of Christ whom the Church has ever known.
Horn deals well with the difficult task of proving a quotation “fake.” I’ve grown a little more cautious over time, but I think I’m still a little freer than he is with this conclusion, particularly when the saying in question sounds like Zig Ziglar. (Nothing against the late Mr. Ziglar, who was a practicing Christian–but his style doesn’t usually sound like that of a Catholic saint.) He also discusses the ways fake quotes come into being.
The body of the book is broken into two parts. The first deals with fauxtations that misconstrue the relationship between faith and works. The title “quotes” for each chapter in this section are:
- “Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.” Not St. Francis.
- “People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered … Love them anyway.” Not Mother Teresa.
- “You don’t need to believe in God to be a good person.” Not Pope Francis. (Horn notes that he’s using the word “saints” in the title loosely, allowing a living person and the Bible to be included in the book.)
- “Pray as though everything depended on God, act as if everything depended on you.” Not St. Ignatius of Loyola. (Nor St. Augustine nor Martin Luther, for that matter.) Horn was able to pursue this a little farther than I did.
- “God helps those who help themselves.” Not the Bible.
The second half of the book covers fauxatations that distort the relationship between faith and reason:
- “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.” Not St. Augustine.
- “I believe because it is absurd.” Not Tertullian–at least, it’s paraphrased and ripped out of context to say something very different from what Tertullian was getting at.
- “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.” Not St. Augustine.
- “The road to hell is paved with the bones of priests.” Not St. John Chrysostom.
- “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.” Not St. Augustine.
He discusses quite a few other fauxtations along the way.
You can learn some good theology from this book, and how to tell good from bad.
BTW, this blog is cited at least five times in the footnotes, so I guess I should thank Trent Horn making me quasi-famous!
A friend sent me a picture of what appears to be a homemade poster which says:
There is no painter, no sculptor, no artist who can be compared to the teacher who, with the grace of God, fashions the image of Christ in the minds and hearts of students. — St. John Chrysostom
When I started to investigate, something happened that has never happened to me before: there were NO matches for my Google search. None. I started searching a little more creatively, and the best I can find is this, from St. John Chrysostom’s Homily 59 on Matthew, which says:
For what is equal to training the soul, and forming the mind of one that is young? For he that has this art, ought to be more exactly observant than any painter and any sculptor.
My best guess is that someone took what the saint actually said and expanded upon it, and that someone else took the expansion for an actual quotation. What boggles the mind (if my guess is correct) is that they did this without Google’s ever noticing.
Maybe this post can stop a new fauxtation in its tracks. (But I doubt it.)
God has entrusted the keys and treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven to Mary.
Attr. to St. Thomas Aquinas
I found a site (connected with a disapproved apparition, so I won’t give a link) which claims it comes from St. Thomas’s “Exposition on the Salve Regina.” The problem with that is that he didn’t write one. He did write on the Angelic Salutation, but the alleged quotation is not in there either.
The friend who asked me about this suggested that I try St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s The Glories of Mary, and behold, it’s there … attributed to Louis de Blois, better known as Blosius. The editor of the edition I found even gives a citation, which alas is not entirely legible, though you’re welcome to try for yourself here. But since there is a citation to a definite work, I’m going to attribute this one to Blosius (and wonder how it got attributed to St. Thomas).
Edit: Thanks to Andrew in the comments below, I have a Google Books link to the saying from Brosius in Latin, As he notes in his comment, the quotation here doesn’t mention the keys:
Tibi regni cæleſis theſauri commiſſi ſunt. (To you [i.e., Mary] the treasures of heaven have been entrusted.)
(I am very disappointed that I couldn’t enter a double long-s.)
Yes, I know there’s a new book out by Trent Horn entitled What the Saints Never Said: Misquotes and the Subtle Heresies They Teach You.
No, “Trent Horn” is not my nom de plume.
Yes, I’ve ordered a copy, because, as Bishop Jenky once said, “You can’t have too many books.” (He did say that to me, so it’s not a fauxtation.)
God does not inspire us to do what cannot be done.
Attr. to St. Thérèse of Lisieux
The actual quotation is:
I know that Jesus cannot will needless suffering for us, and that He would not inspire me with the desires I feel if He were unwilling to fulfill them.
Story of a Soul, Chapter VIII.
The difference may look subtle, but it’s significant, especially if we look at the wider context of what the saint wrote:
Ah! since that day love penetrates me and surrounds me; this Merciful Love each moment renews and purifies me, leaving in my heart no trace of sin. No, I cannot fear Purgatory; I know that I do not merit even to enter with the Holy Souls into that place of expiation, but I know too that the fire of Love is more sanctifying than the fire of Purgatory, I know that Jesus cannot will needless suffering for us, and that He would not inspire me with the desires I feel if He were unwilling to fulfill them.
This isn’t a call to action, to get out there and do something (though there certainly is a place for that). This is a statement of faith that Jesus is wouldn’t call us and then turn away.