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.

Chesterton: Love, forgiveness, faith, hope

Love means loving the unlovable, forgiveness means forgiving the unpardonable, faith means believing the unbelievable, hope means hoping when things are hopeless.

Attr. G. K. Chesterton

Variant form: “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”

Neither one sounds right to me, but the ear test has misled me before, so I went looking.

  • General Google search = General lots of hits, no sources given.
  • Search on the Chesterton Society website (very badly designed website, I might add): Bingo! Sort of.

Charity means pardoning the unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. And faith means believing the incredible, or it is no virtue at all.

Heretics, “Paganism and Mr. Lowes-Dickinson.” (A friend provides a citation to the actual page: Heretics, chap. XII, “Paganism and Mr. Lowes Dickinson”, 1st ed. p. 158.)

GKC recycled himself a lot, though, so it’s possible he said the meme-ized versions, or something close to them, elsewhere, but if so, I can’t find it. Even the original, correct quotation gets mangled over time; by the 1960s, “incredible” had become “unbelievable.”

Verdict: Heavily paraphrased (and thereby made worse, which is what usually happens).

Joan of Arc: I was born to do this?

I am not afraid; I was born to do this.

Attr. St. Joan of Arc

I have no idea what authentic St. Joan sounds like, but I do know what 20th/21st Century motivational speakers sound like, and they sound like this. That doesn’t mean St. Joan didn’t say it (she was illiterate and didn’t write anything), but it makes me wonder how far back the trail of attribution goes.

Wikiquote gives it on her page … with a citation from a 2009 book, which does not itself provide a source. That’s not a real source! On to Google.

And, to my great surprise, here’s Google with an answer, from a Joan of Arc blog:

The actual words that Joan spoke from which this quote was derived were: “I do not fear the soldiers, for my road is made open to me; and if the soldiers come, I have God, my Lord, who will know how to clear the route that leads to messire the Dauphin. It was for this that I was born!”

That gave me something to work with, leading me first to a French version of the saying: “Je n’ai pas peur des soldats, car ma route m’ a été ouverte, et si les soldats viennent, j’ai Dieu, mon Seigneur, qui saura comment libérer la route qui mène à Sieur le Dauphin. C’est pour cela que je fus nais.” It also eventually led me to a 1909 book, giving the English quotation in much the above form and giving a reference to her Trial, vol. ii, p. 449. The full name of Trial is Procès de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc, and I was able to find all the volumes both at Google and at the Internet Archive. Unfortunately, the alleged quotation doesn’t appear on p. 449 of vol. ii., and text searches for words from the French version of the saying didn’t find anything. The saying is indeed there, in Latin (thanks to a commenter for pointing this out): “[Q]uae respondebat quod non timebat armatos, quia habebat viam suam expeditam; quia, si armati essent per viam, habebat Deum, dominum suum, qui sibi faceret viam ad eundum juxta dominum Dalphinum, et quod erat nata ad hoc faciendum.” (She answered that she did not fear soldiers, for her way had been prepared; because, if there did happen to be soldiers along the way, she had God, her Lord, who would make a way for her to go to the lord Dauphin, and that she had been born to do this.)

I still think it’s very likely authentic in the extended form given above, and will leave it at that.

I have edited the entry at Wikiquote to correct the error.

St. Josemaría Escrivá: Saints and sinners

A saint is a sinner who keeps trying.–attr. St. Josemaría Escrivá

This saying is also attributed to St. Teresa of Calcutta and to Nelson Mandela. The closest form of it I can find in St. Josemaría’s work is this:

Don’t forget that the saint is not the person who never falls, but rather the one who never fails to get up again, humbly and with a holy stubbornness.–In the Footsteps of Christ, 131.

Without disrespect to St. Josemaría, I will say that I strongly doubt that the idea is original to him, and I doubt even more that he’s responsible for the original quotation.

As for Nelson Mandela, the closest I can find is this:

No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.–Letter to Winnie Mandela (1 February 1975)

I can’t find a reliable source attributing it to Mother Teresa at all.


ETA: A friend tells me that it’s also attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson. Wikipedia tells me that RLS was a self-professed atheist, and a Google Books search through his works turns up nothing.

Taking a shine to C.S. Lewis

Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him.

Attributed to C. S. Lewis, but not by him. Someone already did the work on this for me. http://www.essentialcslewis.com/2016/03/05/ccslq-22-dont-shine/

Earliest known attribution to CSL is 2014. It’s not even on the discussion page for Lewis at Wikiquote, so I knew it was mostly likely a recent misattribution.


Additional thought: This sounds an awful lot like something from Cardinal Newman’s meditation on radiating Christ, which is the foundation for the Missionaries of Charity’s prayer discussed here.

St. Augustine: Good things, empty hands

God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.

Attr. St. Augustine

It didn’t take me long to discover that this quotation (if such it be) was popularized by Dr. Gerald May, who wrote in Addiction and Grace: “St. Augustine once said that God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them” (p. 17 of the 2007 edition on Amazon). As far as I can tell (I don’t own the book), he didn’t give a source.

I found places that say it’s from City of God, but nothing more precise. The Penguin Classics edition of City of God runs to a nifty 1,184 pages, weighing 1.8 pounds–in other words, it’s massive, so a citation needs more than the name of the work to be useful. I looked at several public domain translations, and the quotation is not in any of them, nor did I find anything which might have been the foundation for a paraphrase.

I tried going to a site that has the complete works of St. Augustine in Latin. (Searching an Italian site for words in Latin is good nerdy fun.) Unfortunately, the possible quotation in question has no very unique words in it when I try a translation back into Latin. I ended up searching for manus (hand/hands) and then searching within the 634 results for nobis  (to us). No dice.

I think I’ve mentioned before that it would be a brave man indeed who would claim to know for certain that St. Augustine didn’t write something, given the extent of his works, but I’m dubious on this one.

The worst kind of heretic: Pope Leo XIII

The worst kind of heretic is the one who, while teaching mostly true Catholic doctrine, adds a word of heresy, like a drop of poison in a cup of water.

Attr. Pope Leo XIII.

I have left the record of my original search below. The reason I couldn’t find it is that it’s heavily meme-ified. It’s heavily paraphrased from Pope Leo’s Satis Cognitun (9), where the Holy Father is in turn quoting an anonymous author:

There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition (Auctor Tract. de Fide Orthodoxa contra Arianos).

So it’s sort of him and sort of not.

Original post follows:


  1. Google Search = Pinterest, tumblr, comments boxes, angry blog posts about Pope Francis, no citations, and no posts that I can find from more than a couple years ago.
  2. Wikiquote = only one quotation from Pope Leo XIII, and this isn’t it. There’s not even a list of disputed quotations or a discussion page.
  3. Direct search of Vatican web site: Your search – site:www.vatican.va The worst kind of heretic is the one who, while teaching mostly true … – did not match any documents.
  4. Hit #3 on Google Books is The Stepford Wives (I am not making this up). None of the hits are useful.

Conclusion: fauxtation until someone gives a real source. Sort of authentic.