Broken friendships and St. Francis de Sales

A quarrel between friends, when made up, adds a new tie to friendship.

Attr. St. Francis de Sales

Google Books got me close. An 1829 book, The Beauties of St. Francis de Sales, has the potential quotation pretty much as given, but in indirect form: “He rather preferred a contrary maxim; and said, that a quarrel between friends, when made up, added a new tie to friendship: as experience shews, that the callosity formed round a broken bone, makes it stronger than before.”

The part about the broken bone gave me enough additional info to track down the source, which is The Spirit of St. Frances de Sales, written by the saint’s friend Jean Pierre Camus. The quotation is given there in indirect form as well: “He did not admit the maxim of the world: ‘We must not trust a reconciled enemy.’ In his opinion the exact contrary of this dictum is more in accordance with truth. He used to say that ‘fallings out’ in the case of friends only serve to draw the bonds of friendship closer, just as the smith makes use of water to increase the heat of his fire. He added, as a well-known fact in surgery, that the callosity which forms over a fractured bone is so dense that the limb will never break again at that particular place. Indeed, when a reconciliation has taken place between two persons hitherto at variance, it is almost certain that each will set to work, perhaps even unconsciously, to make the newly-cemented friendship firmer. The offender by avoiding further offence, and atoning as far as possible for what is past, and the offended person by endeavouring in a truly generous spirit to bury that past in oblivion.”

So, given slight alterations along the way, the quotation is authentic.

St. John Vianney: Who’s your public?

Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels, and the saints–they are your public.

Attr. St. John Vianney

Edit: A commenter found the quote in French in an 1861 book entitled Le Croisé, where the text is: Ne cherchez pas à plaire à tout le monde. Ne cherchez pas à plaire à quelques-uns. Cherchez à plaire à Dieu, aux Anges, aux Saints. Voilà votre public. Here’s a link to the page. I don’t know French, so I can’t evaluate the context, but as it is, this is a usage in French of public in the sense I questioned below, so I’m changing my evaluation to “probably authentic.”

The original post follows, unedited except for the conclusion.

I was perfectly willing to believe this quotation is authentic, right up until I hit the phrase after the dash. I have a hard time thinking that St. John Vianney would think in terms of having a “public.”

The earliest English citation for “public” in this sense in the OED is 1823. Since the Curé died in 1859, his life does overlap the time when this sense was in use, but (a) he spoke French and (b) I don’t think he would have picked up a colloquial English phrase like this. So either it’s a translation of an equivalent French phrase (I have no idea what that would be) or it’s very likely a fauxtation.

Since “public” is the word whose authenticity I find suspect, it’s a handy search term when searching through the works of the saint and works about him. None of the hits in Abbé Trochu’s biography match. Nor does the one hit in the Little Catechism. Nor does it show up in any of the other works searchable on Google Books. Nor is it in the Thoughts of the Curé of Ars (1859 edition). I also tried works by and about him at the Internet Archive, also without success.

My general Google search turned up tons of hits, none with citations. Searching Google Books especially, the oldest hit for the full quotation is from Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems, by Joseph M. Esper. I’ve encountered this work before in investigating quotations, and he doesn’t cite his sources.

I then started to wonder if I could find the first part of the alleged quotation in the saint’s works. The short answer is no.

My verdict is that the first portion of the “quotation” is plausible but uncertain, and the part after the dash is almost certainly not from the saint. Given that there is an 1861 French source for this, I am willing to say it’s probably authentic.

St. Catherine of Siena: The world is rotten because of silence

We’ve had enough exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues-I see the world is rotten because of silence.

Attr. St. Catherine of Siena

The quotation doesn’t sound implausibly attributed to her, but can it be shown to be authentic?

I will spare you the details of my long and fruitless search. Eventually, I semi-punted and asked an Italian-speaking friend, Fr. Bryan Jerabek, for help, hoping it would be easier to find it in Italian. He told me that medieval Italian is not the same as modern Italian, but he’d look anyhow, And, ecco!

It’s her letter #16, to an unidentified “great prelate” (perhaps Cardinal Pietro of Ostia.) That letter doesn’t seem to be on the Internet in English, which is why I couldn’t find it. You can see the medieval Italian version here. The relevant passage is as follows:

Oimè, non più tacere! Gridate con cento migliaia di lingue. Veggo che, per tacere, il mondo è guasto, la Sposa di Cristo è impallidita, toltogli è il colore, perchè gli è succhiato il sangue da dosso, cìoè che il sangue di Cristo, che è dato per grazia e non per debito.

Fr. Jerabek renders that as:

Be silent no more! Cry out with one hundred thousand tongues. I see that, because of this silence, the world is in ruins, the Spouse of Christ has grown pale; the color is taken from her face because her blood has been sucked out, that is the blood of Christ, which is given as a free gift and not by right.

So the currently-circulating version of the quotation is not quite accurate. “We’ve had enough exhortations to be silent” doesn’t appear (I suspect it got tacked on when someone used St. Catherine’s words in response to an exhortation to silence), and it’s 100K tongues, not simply 1,000. But I’m going to call the rest of it close enough.

Lewis: Books at ten and at fifty

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.

St. Brigid’s Great Lake of Beer

I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.

Attr. St. Brigid.

I was willing to believe this one is legit, but I felt like checking anyhow. Wikiquote has it, but only gives a book from 1996 as a source. The book (I found it on Google Books) doesn’t give a source, and books like this have been known to be the source of fauxtations, so I needed a better source.

I went Googling and quickly turned up the Gaelic original:

Ropadh maith lem corm-lina mor
do rígh na rígh;
Ropadh maith muinntir nimhe
acca hól tre bithe shir.

(Spelling varies between sources.)

And with that in hand, it was easy to trace it. It goes back to an 8th Century manuscript preserved (at least in the 1890s) in the Burgundian Library in Brussels in which it’s attributed to St. Brigid, and that’s about as good as you’re going to get for a 1500 year-old quotation from a largely pre-literate society. See (I am not making this up) “Highland Plant Uses”.

The moral of the story is that authentic quotations are usually easy to trace.

St. Teresa of Ávila: “If this is how You treat your friends….”

The story runs along these lines: St. Teresa of Ávila had an unfortunate happenstance. Sometimes it is said that she fell off a horse into the mud; sometimes it’s a carriage accident and mud; sometimes there’s no mud at all and it’s an insight she received in prayer. Whatever the circumstances, she heard Jesus say to her, “This is how I treat my friends,” to which she replied, “If this is how You treat your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!”

Did it happen? Someone asked me and I went looking …

Googling for the phrase turned up lots and lots of hits, with no citations. Not good.

Wikiquote doesn’t mention it.

Google Books found it in a 1956 Saturday Review article, quoted as a well-known saying.

And here the trail seemed to go dry. I was suspicious because of the various forms of the story, but I wasn’t quite sure.

So I decided to look for the story in Spanish. With the help of Google Translate, I decided to search for Si así tratas a tus amigos (“If this is how you treat your friends”) which turned up many hits. But the remainder of the phrase varied:

* con razón no tienes muchos.
* con razón tienes tan pocos!
* ahora comprendo por qué tienes tan pocos.
* por eso tienes tan pocos.
* ¡no en balde tienes tan pocos!
and one site had the whole possible-quotation arranged differently: Señor, no me extraña que tengas tan pocos amigos si así tratas a los que tienes.

So I thought for a bit. The story didn’t seem to fit into the general tenor of her autobiography, but I checked the English translation for “friends” and for “treat” without finding the story. I checked the Spanish edition of the first biography written of her,  by Francisco de Ribera, one of her confessors, for the words amigos and tratas, again without finding the story.

I was about ready to throw my hands up in despair and say that the Saturday Review article was passing along a story from I-know-not-where whose reliability cannot be verified when I thought, “Wait! I bet before 1950 they told the story with thou instead of you!” So I Googled for If this be how thou treat thy friends.

Google very kindly tried to turn thou back into you and showed me all the same results I’d already seen. (Why it didn’t search for thou when I asked for you early on, I couldn’t say.) When I insisted on thou (putting a word in quotations will usually convince Google that you really mean it) it still showed me hits for you, but it also showed me hits for thou, and that struck gold. Or gold-ish, in the form of The Life of St. Teresa, a 1912 translation by Alice Lady Lovat “taken from the French of ‘A Carmelite’ Nun,” which gives the following story on page 548. In January of the last year of her life, 1582, she left Ávila to establish convents in Burgos and Grenada, and this befell her along the way:

Teresa describes the journey thus: “We had to run many dangers. At no part of the road were the risks greater than within a few leagues of Burgos, at a place called Los Pontes. The rivers were so high that the water in places covered everything, neither road nor the smallest footpath could be seen, only water everywhere, and two abysses on each side. It seemed foolhardiness to advance, especially in a carriage, for if one strayed ever so little off the road (then invisible), one must have perished.” The saint is silent on her share of the adventure, but her companions relate that, seeing their alarm, she turned to them and encouraged them, saying that “as they were engaged in doing God’s work, how could they die in a better cause?” She then led the way on foot. The current was so strong that she lost her footing, and was on the point of being carried away when our Lord sustained her. “Oh, my Lord!” she exclaimed, with her usual loving familiarity, “when wilt Thou cease from scattering obstacles in our path?” “Do not complain, daughter,” the Divine Master answered, “for it is ever thus that I treat My friends.” “Ah, Lord, it is also on that account that Thou hast so few!” was her reply.

I have been unable to find out anything about the French work from which this was taken, but it is at least certain that the whole story is not a 20th Century invention. I am still curious what the original source might be–the memoirs of one of her compatriots, perhaps? Someone’s letter from the journey? Carmelite oral tradition? But I’m not curious enough to keep looking.

St. Francis de Sales: Be what you are

Be what you are and be that well.

Attributed, accurately, to St. Francis de Sales, even though Wikiquote has it on the unsourced page. (I might go create an account and fix that.) A friend pointed me to the source.

It comes from a letter to Madame Marie Bourgeois Brûlartto, wife
of the president of the Burgundian Parliament. Here’s the context:

Do not love anything too much, I beg you, not even virtues, which we sometimes
lose by our excessive zeal. … Let us be what we are and be that well, in order
to bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are. People
laughed at the painter who, intending to paint a horse, came up with a perfect
bull; the work was handsome in itself, but not much credit to the artist who had
had other plans and succeeded in this one only by chance. Let us be what God
wants us to be, provided we are His, and let us not be what we would like to be,
contrary to His intention. Even if we were the most perfect creatures under
heaven, what good would that do us if we were not as God‘s will would have us

Letter CCLXXXIX, dated June 10, 1605, in vol. XIII of the Oeuvres de Saint François de Sales, Évêque et prince de Genève et Docteur de l’Église, edition complète (Annecy: Monastère de la Visitation, 1894), 53-54. Translation by Péronne Marie Thibert, V.H.M. in Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction, selected and introduced by Wendy M. Wright and Joseph F. Power, O.S.F.S. (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 111

Newman: We can believe what we choose

We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.

Attr. Blessed Cardinal Newman

Memed-up a bit but more or less accurate. It comes from a June 27, 1848 letter to Mrs. William Froude, sister-in-law of his late friend Hurrell Froude. Mrs. Froude with struggling with a decision to convert to Catholicism. The whole letter is on pp. 227-229 of Vol. XII of Newman’s letters, which exists online only as a PDF, as far as I can tell.

The second sentence of the meme is only the first half of Newman’s sentence. Here’s the full thing: “We are answerable for what we choose to believe; if we believe lightly, or if we are hard of belief, in either case we do wrong.”

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange on Tolerance and Intolerance

The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.

Edit: I’m leaving the original post below, but thanks to commenter Nicholas Scoville, this quotation has been found and is authentic. It is in God, His Existence and Nature, on page 412 of Vol. II of the 1936 Herder edition.

He seems to think he’s citing a common saying, but since he gives no source, this is probably as far as the trail goes.


Attributed to Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., sometimes said to be in his book God, His Existence and Nature. It does sound like something he could have said, but another one of my “fishy quote” triggers is things that fit too neatly into a modern zeitgeist, and this qualifies. In this case, it’s the “defense of orthodox Catholicism” zeitgeist, but it’s a zeitgeist still, so I went looking.

The book it’s alleged to be in happens to be online. I’m not sure that it’s legal–the copyright doesn’t seem to have been renewed, but RGL was a foreign national, which changes things, and I’m not an expert on copyright law–but I went ahead and searched the site it’s on for the words tolerant intolerant practice principle. It’s not there.

RGL does not have a Wikiquote page, so that was no help.

A generalized Google search … I don’t know why I bother. Actually I do know, because a generalized Google search turns up a citation for authentic quotations pretty quickly most of the time. It didn’t for this one.

On to Google Books, which didn’t find it at all, anywhere (which I frankly find hard to believe, but I searched several different ways and nothing turned up).

Back in desperation to a general Google search, using the whole phrase The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. I checked all the likely looking references on the first three pages of the search results, and a few not-so-likely ones as well. No dice.

I’m filing this one as a fauxtation until someone gives me a reference more precise than an entire book.