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.

Gerard Manley Hopkins and the core of your identity

Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and your right to choices.

Attr. to Gerard Manley Hopkins

My initial thought when a friend brought this to my attention is that there is no way on earth that Hopkins wrote it. I thought it was 20th Century psychobabble, and my friend thought that it was far too un-poetic for Hopkins. And we were both right.

The source is How to Be an Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual Integration, by David Richo, published in 1991 by Paulist Press. The epigram at the start of Chapter 7 looks like this:


Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and your right to choices:
“There lives the dearest freshest deep-down things.”
–Gerard Manley Hopkins

Here’s a Google Books link to the page so you can see it yourself (if GB deigns to do so; it can be finicky about showing previews of copyrighted texts).

I am tempted to say something here about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, but I’d better not. At any rate, the alleged quotation is definitely faux.

St. Clare and what we love

We become what we love, and what we love shapes what we become.

Attr. St. Clare of Assisi

This came in low enough on my “sounds right” test to get me searching. The first search result was from Goodreads, which means no citation.

The second hit was from a blog by a teacher at Franciscan University of Steubenville, who gave a longer version: “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ; rather, it means become the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation.” The author attributed that to St. Clare, but it scores about as low as it is possible to score on my “sounds right” scale, so I searched for the second sentence, and it turned up very quickly in Google Books, in a book called Franciscans at Prayer, by Timothy Johnson, p. 54. You can see that page here. The words–all of them–are Johnson’s, not St. Clare’s.

Edith Stein/St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: Truth and Love

Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.

Attr. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

The saying is found in Pope St. John Paul II’s homily for her canonization. The exact passage, with punctuation and italics as in the original, looks like this:

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was able to understand that the love of Christ and human freedom are intertwined, because love and truth have an intrinsic relationship. The quest for truth and its expression in love did not seem at odds to her; on the contrary she realized that they call for one another.

In our time, truth is often mistaken for the opinion of the majority. In addition, there is a widespread belief that one should use the truth even against love or vice versa. But truth and love need each other. St Teresa Benedicta is a witness to this. The “martyr for love”, who gave her life for her friends, let no one surpass her in love. At the same time, with her whole being she sought the truth, of which she wrote: “No spiritual work comes into the world without great suffering. It always challenges the whole person”.

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says to us all: Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie.

Throughout the homily, when the Holy Father was quoting St. TBotC’s words, they are placed in quotation marks (see the end of the second paragraph above). The alleged saying is not in quotation marks–it’s italicized, as are other points that Pope St. JP II wanted to emphasize.

If there’s any doubt about it, a look at the context makes it clear that the quoted phrase is JP II’s summary of (a part of) St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross’s message; it’s not something that she herself said, in so many words. Someone saw “says to us all” and misread it (in my opinion, but backed by evidence) as attributing the saying to her.

Verdict: Fauxtation; actually a saying of Pope St. John Paul II.

St. Augustine and the daughters of hope

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

Attr. St. Augustine.

This didn’t meet the “sounds right” test to me–St. Augustine is generally not one for extended metaphors like this. He does do extended similes, but not metaphors.

Wikiquote has this on the talk/disputed page, given a citation from Spirituality and Liberation: Overcoming the Great Fallacy (1988) by Robert McAfee Brown, p. 136. That book happens to be searchable at Google Books, but the alleged quotation is not found there. (Perhaps Google doesn’t have the whole thing searchable.)

I went searching through Google Books for the phrase. It turns up in a lot of books connected with liberation theology (which doesn’t make the attribution false). One of the hits does have a footnote, but it simply cites a somewhat earlier (1987) book and says that there’s no citation given in that book.

I then found another book by Robert McAfee Brown in which he calls it “a reflective comment whose location in the Augustinian corpus I wish I could pinpoint” (Speaking of Christianity, p. 74). In other words, he doesn’t know where it’s from either.

Then I found this from Archbishop Chaput: “The words are apocryphal. There’s no real evidence that Augustine ever wrote them” (Strangers in a Strange Land, p. 162). (He goes on to add, “But their content is clearly true and worth remembering as a guide to Christian discipleship.”)

I poked around a little more but couldn’t find much of anything more helpful. Google Books doesn’t have anything before 1987. Given the amount of negative evidence, I’m not going to try guessing at Latin phrases to search for in Augustine’s work. I’m just going to say that however beautiful and helpful the thought may be (cf. +Chaput, above), it didn’t come from the mind of St. Augustine.

Benedict XVI and the Mustard Seed

I have a mustard seed and I’m not afraid to use it.

Attr. (falsely, not to spoil the ending or anything) to Pope Benedict XVI, who would never have used such a colloquial American-sounding phrase. I’m fine with colloquial Americanisms, but I find it unlikely in the extreme that B XVI is familiar with them, much less familiar enough with one to use it like this.

Pope Benedict did talk about the mustard seed in one of his interviews with Peter Seewald, and apparently around the time of his election a commentator used the saying that became the fauxtation to summarize his views of then-Ratzinger’s approach. It then got picked up by a few other people, then got used in quotation marks without attribution as the title of a blog post, and thence passed on into fauxtationdom.

St. John Paul II and animal souls

The animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren. All animals are fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect and they are as near to God as men are.

Attr. Pope St. John Paul II

To the extent that this alleged quotation is a real quotation, it comes from the Holy Father’s Jan. 10, 1990 general audience. paragraph 4. Unfortunately, there is no English translation on the Vatican website, only Italian (presumably the original) and Spanish. Fortunately, I have a friend, Fr. Bryan Jerabek, who knows Italian.

If you know Italian too, you can translate this for yourself:

Altri testi, tuttavia, ammettono che anche gli animali hanno un alito o soffio vitale e che l’hanno ricevuto da Dio. Sotto questo aspetto l’uomo, uscito dalle mani di Dio, appare solidale con tutti gli esseri viventi. Così il Salmo 104 non pone distinzione tra gli uomini e gli animali quando dice, rivolgendosi a Dio creatore: “Tutti da te aspettano che tu dia loro il cibo in tempo opportuno. Tu lo provvedi, essi lo raccolgono” (Sal 104, 27-28). Poi il Salmista aggiunge: “Se togli loro il soffio, muoiono e ritornano nella polvere. Mandi il tuo soffio, sono creati e rinnovati la faccia della terra” (Sal 104, 29-30). L’esistenza delle creature dipende dunque dall’azione del soffio-spirito di Dio, che non solo crea, ma anche conserva e rinnova continuamente la faccia della terra.

And if you need an English translation better than Google Translate can provide, here’s what my friend provided:

Nevertheless, other texts admit that even animals have a breath of life, received from God. Under this aspect, man, having come forth from the hands of God, appears in solidarity with all living beings. Thus Psalm 104 does not make distinctions between men and animals when it says, addressing God the Creator, “They all look to you to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” (Psalm 104:27-28). Then the psalmist adds, “when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:29-30). The existence of creatures thus depends upon the action of the breath-spirit of God, which not only creates, but even conserves and continually renews the face of the earth.


Accurately translated, then, and in context. the Holy Father was making the point that animals too have the breath of life, which can come only from God, and that God sustains all life in existence. But he never said that we must love animals and feel solidarity with them; he said nothing about having respect for them; and above all, he never said anything at all about animals being as close to God as men are.

If you’re thinking, “Well, maybe the Spanish version is different,” well, I do know Spanish, sort of, enough to tell that it’s not significantly different from the Italian text as translated above.

So the alleged quotation started from something that Pope St. John Paul II did say, but it adds to it many things he never said.


Mother Teresa: Blessings and lessons

Some people come into your life as blessings. Some come into your life as lessons.

Attr. Mother St. Teresa; I’ve seen a version with “in” in place of “into,” but it’s the same idea either way.

The saying doesn’t pass the sounds-right test to me, but I went looking because I’ve been fooled on Mother Teresa quotations before.

Here’s what I found:

  • It’s not in Wikiquote at all, either on the verified quotations page or on the discussion page for dubious “quotations.” This is significant because it suggests that the association of the saying with her is fairly recent.
  • It’s not on the rather cumbersomely-entitled “Quotes falsely attributed to Mother Teresa and significantly paraphrased versions or personal interpretations of statements that are not her authentic words” web page. This suggests that it’s either authentic or that it got associated with her after 2010, when that page was last updated.
  • Googling the quotation with her name turns up only the usual suspect and reference-free sites, along with a smattering of blogs etc., also providing no references.
  • Googling without her name … would you believe it’s on Zig Ziglar’s Facebook page? It’s in lots of other places, too, never with an attribution. The earliest I can find it on a website that gives a date is around 2012. (Mr. Ziglar’s post is from 2014.)
  • Trying Google Books: The only places it shows up connected with St. Mother T are books that are just the contents of Internet “quotation” sites shoveled into a book. It doesn’t show up at all, attributed or not, before 2012.

Put it all together, and there are two possible conclusions:

(a) Mother Teresa actually said it, but it got detached from her name for 15 years and then somehow reattached; or
(b) She didn’t say it.

I’m going with (b).

Love is never wasted: C. S. Lewis?

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.

  1. A Google search turns up the usual citation-less suspects.
  2. Wikiquote doesn’t have it, even on the discussion page of disputed quotes.
  3. 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 LovesThe 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 ….
  4. 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.