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.

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.

St. Thomas More: No deathbed regrets

No one on his deathbed ever regretted having been a Catholic.

Attr. St. Thomas More

I’m not familiar enough with St. Thomas More’s works to apply an ear test to this.

  • Google search: A bunch of unsourced “quotations.” Just to be on the safe side, I looked at all 60 hits for deathbed regret catholic thomas more (Google search is smart enough to find inflected forms of “regret”) to no avail. That is to say, I found the saying (confirming that Google did search for inflected forms), but no citations.
  • Wikiquote: Not on his page, and he has no discussion page.
  • Google Books search: I went with deathbed regretted thomas more as keywords. The oldest match is from 2005, in Thomas Woods’ How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.
  • The Center For Thomas More Studies has a pleasant-appearing website with a search function. Searching failed to turn up the alleged saying.
  • I searched the Internet Archive’s copy of Life and Writing of St. Thomas More. Since it was OCRed and not proofread, I checked independently for regret and for Catholic, without finding the saying in question.
  • It’s not in William Roper’s Life of St. Thomas More.

Given that spelling was far from standardized in More’s time, and given that someone else could have preserved this as a saying rather than something that More himself wrote, it’s not impossible that he said it. But it’s also not evident to me that he did.

St. Thérèse: Jesus, simplify my life

Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be and becoming that person.

Attr. St. Thérèse of Lisieux

This sounds a lot more like someone’s meditation on St. Thérèse’s Little Way than it does anything that she herself might have written. A friend points out that St. Thérèse very rarely wrote out her internal prayers.

Googling in general didn’t turn up much. I did find one site claiming that it’s from Story of a Soul, but searching an online edition for simplify, learning, becoming, and person turned up nothing. Google Books doesn’t have it before 2009.

One site said they found it in a Christopher’s pamphlet, and I was able to find a Christopher’s News Note link via Google, but the link doesn’t work (404 error). I tried looking at some likely-looking titles on the News Notes page, but none of them contains the alleged quotation (and what citations I did see were secondary sources that are notoriously unreliable).

It’s not on Wikiquote at all.

I am fairly confident that St. Thérèse didn’t write this. Among other things, I’ve observed that real quotations usually turn up in the first page or two of search results, and I went double-digit pages looking for this one.

Saint Anselm and the value of Masses

A single Mass offered for oneself during life may be worth more than a thousand celebrated for the same intention after death.

Attr. to St. Anselm

The language of the quotation doesn’t sound like I think St. Anselm should sound, even in translation (he died in 1109 and wrote in Latin). A Google search, for a change, was helpful, turning up this article at EWTN. If you read the followup, you’ll discover that an unnamed reader (not me–this is from before I started pursuing fauxtations) checked it out and couldn’t find it anywhere in St. Anselm’s work. It’s also attributed to Pope Benedict XV, but the unnamed reader couldn’t find it there either.

I was curious how far back this alleged saying might go. The awkward “offered for oneself” phrase was my first search term at Google Books, but that didn’t take me any farther back than 1991, when Joan Carroll Cruz gives the alleged quotation (without citation) in her book Eucharistic Miracles.

I wasn’t satisfied and switched the search terms to “thousand celebrated” Anselm. That took me back to The Hidden Treasure, by Blessed Leonard of Port Maurice († 1751) , in an 1861 English translation (the name of the translator doesn’t seem to be given). The quote is given there in this form: “To hear even one Mass devoutly during one’s life, or to give an alms for having it celebrated, is a far better thing than to bequeath alms for the celebration of a thousand after your decease.”

That form sounds a lot more plausible. It’s also different enough from the form given at the beginning of this post that a searcher could plausibly miss it in the works of St. Anselm.

A friend found an Italian edition of The Hidden Treasure containing the original Latin quotation, which is as follows: Audire devote unicam missam in vita, vel dare eleemosynam pro ea, prodest magis quam relinquere ad celebrandum mille post obitum. Wonder of wonders, it even provides a citation of sorts: (apud Castell. diur. sac. Proep.) [or maybe Praep.; it’s not the clearest page scan].

After some random thrashing around trying to find this on the Internet, I went to the Patrologia Latina, a compendium of theological works in Latin, also known as “Migne” after its chief editor. Vol. 158 (it’s a long compendium!) contains the works of St. Anselm. Google Books and the Internet Archive both attempt to OCR books, but the pages images aren’t great and I don’t think the OCR they use is tuned for Latin. Rather than search for the whole phrase, I selected certain words: audire, devote, unicam, missam, eleemosynam [highly unlikely to be OCRed correctly, but it would be great if it were!], prodest, relinquere, celebrandum, mille [knowing that OCR will probably mistake a lot of “ll” for “H” and vice versa, not to mention confusing it with mitte], and obitum. I search for each word in a copy from Google Books and in a copy from the Internet Archive.

Audire had 23 hits in Google and 54 at the Archive (in part because the search at the archive turned up audire in compounds such as exaudire, which the Google search apparently doesn’t; Google also counts multiple hits on one page as one hit). None of them are the quotation in question.

Devote: 7 Google, 6 Archive, 0 matches.
Unicam: 1 and 1, 0 matches.
Missam: 6 and 21, 0 matches.
Eleemosynam: 0 and 4 (so the two sites are using different OCR engines), 0 matches.
Prodest: 10 and 16, 0 matches.
Relinquere: 3 and 6, 0 matches.
Celebrandum: 2 and 3, 0 matches.
Mille: 3 (one of which was actually unus; the OCR missed badly on this one) and 123. Gulp. So I put spaces around the word and search for the word only at the Archive, getting 1 hit. 0 matches
Obitum: 5 and 10, 0 matches.

When I say “0 matches,” by the way, it means there was nothing close to the alleged quotation; I looked at the words near each hit and none of them were even talking about its subject. So I’m confident that it’s not in Migne, and given that the source of the alleged quotation predates Migne (Blessed Leonard died about a century before Migne began publishing the P/L), it couldn’t have come from a newly-discovered manuscript not in Migne.

There are at least seven other Saint Anselms, but they are much more obscure and usually identified as “Saint Anselm of [wherever]” to distinguish them from the famous one.

If it’s a fauxation, it’s a 260+ year old fauxtation, but I have to say that I can’t find anything that convinces me that it’s authentic.

St. Basil the Great and the road to Hell

Hell can’t be made attractive, so the Devil makes attractive the road that leads there.

Attr. St. Basil the Great

  1. Google search: Facebook, Pinterest, etc. No citations. All the pages are recent (in the last few years).
  2. Wikiquote: Not there.
  3. Google Books: Doesn’t turn up at all when I put quotation marks around “Hell can’t be made attractive.” No quotation marks = pages upon pages of irrelevant matches.
  4. Post-Nicene Fathers at CCEL, searching the Letters and Sermons of Basil: No relevant match for “attractive” nor for “road.”

The odds don’t look good for this.

Fulton Sheen: The Catholic faith is like a lion in a cage

The Catholic faith is like a lion in a cage. You don’t need to defend it—you simply need to open the cage door.

Attr. to Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

I might not have suspected this one except that it sounds suspiciously like a fauxtation attributed to St. Augustine: “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself.” I dealt with that one in a previous post, tracing it back to the famous Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon.

I couldn’t find this rendition of it attributed to +Sheen before 2006. I did find it, however, in Scott Hahn’s conversion story: “What we discovered was that the Catholic Church almost doesn’t even need a defense. It’s more like a lion; just let it out of its cage and it takes care of itself.” It’s entirely possible that Dr. Hahn got the phrase from +Sheen, but it’s also quite possible that he was familiar with the quotation from Spurgeon.

Archbishop Sheen wrote an awful lot and said an awful lot more, so I’m not going to proclaim dogmatically that he didn’t say it. But until someone shows me when and where he said it, I’m going to remain skeptical.

What we are before God….

What we are before God we are and nothing more.

Attr. St. Anthony of Padua, according to a recent FB meme. It’s not on Wikiquote for him, and an Internet search for the phrase turns up several attributions to St. Francis (unsourced, of course). I found a page that attributes this version to Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more,” though of course it might not be original to him.

When I search for we are what we are before God and nothing more anthony of padua on Google, I get one hit from Pinterest on the first page and one from Facebook on the second, suggesting to me that the attribution to St. Anthony is pretty recent. The suggestion is all the greater since a Google Books search finds nothing at all.

Color me skeptical.