How to avoid fauxtations

Several people have told me, either in person or via the internet, that they’re a little shy about putting up possible quotations for fear that they might be fauxtations. I realize not everyone is interested in chasing down every quote’s source before posting it, but here are a few things you can do quickly to cut down your chances of appearing on Fauxtations:

  1. Check the fauxtations blog. It’s got a handy search box, tags, and other such amenities.
  2. Apply the ear test. If it sounds like a modern-day motivational speaker, it probably wasn’t said by a saint. If it sounds like a greeting card, it probably wasn’t said by a saint (St. Mother Teresa and St. Thérèse can sound a little Hallmark-y at times, especially if taken out of context).
  3. Check Wikiquote, and make sure you didn’t hit one of the pages where someone used secondary sources (“quoted by Joe Smith in Things St. Francis Said“). To be double sure, you can go to the discussion tab (not visible on the mobile site) and see if it’s discussed there.

It takes more to guarantee a non-fauxtation, but those three tests will catch a good number of fauxtations.

Special bonus:
If the alleged quote is from C. S. Lewis, try this page:
If it’s from St. Mother Teresa, try this page (but be aware that the bottom half of the page contains paraphrases, and it’s hard to know how far the alleged paraphrase varies from what she actually said):

2018: The Fauxtations year in review

52,000 views, 41,500 visitors, both figures up around 30%, with the publication of Trent Horn’s book What the Saints Never Said probably driving at least some of the traffic.

Top 5 articles:
St. Augustine: He who sings prays twice 5,109 views
Heisenberg at the bottom of the glass 4,889 views
Good, better, best: St. Jerome? 4,564 views
St. Augustine: The truth is like a lion 3,379 views
St. Teresa of Avila: If this is how You treat Your friends 2,334 views

Here’s to another year of things people didn’t say!

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.

Pagan Nonsense in the Name of St. Thomas Aquinas

A well-known Catholic page published a meme that I refuse to quote in anything approaching its entirety. It begins with the words, “How is it that they live for eons in such harmony.” St. Thomas didn’t write it; anyone who is familiar with St. Thomas’s work at all should recognize it for the forgery it is.

The actual author is a man named Daniel Ladinsky. He claims to be only the translator, but I’ll let one of the Amazon reviews tell you what’s going on:  “Daniel Ladinsky has a history of writing his own poetry and selling it as though it were translated material. Many people in the West know the name of the Iranian poet, Hafiz, through Ladinsky. Although Ladinsky has admitted at times that his writings are not translations of Hafiz but are based on his vision of Hafiz, he has continued to market his material as though it were actually authored by that poet.”

It might be that the “translator” took “inspiration” from something St. Thomas really did write, though I can’t imagine what. I am sure that St. Thomas would not be happy having his name attached to some of the thoughts in the poem.

The St. Thomas Aquinas Compendium

In advance of St. Thomas’s feast day, I give you a list of his appearances on this blog:

I confidently predict that the one about wine will be all over the interwebz, again, on his feast day. Sigh.

(Updated Jan. 28, 2018.)

Top Ten of 2016

The 10 most viewed posts (not counting the home page) of 2016:

10. Plato and music education, viewed 517 times. (2014)
9. Too busy to pray and St. Francis de Sales, viewed 519 times. (2015)
8. C. S. Lewis: My prayer when I die, viewed 765 times. (2016)
7. St. Thomas Aquinas and remedies for sorrow, viewed 859 times. (2015)
6. St. Augustine and right/wrong, viewed 1,035 times. (2015)
5. C. S. Lewis, children and work, viewed 1,662 times. (2014)
4. St. Augustine: Despair, Presumption, viewed 2,013 times. (2015)
3. St. Augustine: The Truth is Like a Lion, viewed 2,649 times. (2015)
2. Augustine: He who sings prays twice, viewed 4,701 times. (2015)

And the number one post of 2016 (drumroll, please) ….

1. Screwtape on politics?, viewed 9,401 times. (2016)


  1. Unsurprisingly, the list is dominated by St. Augustine and C. S. Lewis (especially since the faux Screwtape post goes into CLS’s account).
  2. I need a consistent style for post titles.
  3. Politics sells. 😦

St. Francis: The compendium

St. Francis is one of the top targets for fauxtationers, right up there with St. Augustine, G. K. Chesterton, and C. S. Lewis. In honor of his feast day, here’s a list of posts dealing with him, along with one new one.

New: “Preach always; use words if necessary.” I haven’t done a post on this one before because it is widely known that it can’t be found anywhere in his works or in the early biographies of him. Wikiquote notes that it can find no citations before the 1990s. It might be a piece of Franciscan oral tradition, but I doubt it. My guess is that it was someone’s summary of St. Francis’s life.

Not authentic or probably not authentic:

Prayer of St. Francis
Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received
God can work through anyone
Start by doing what’s necessary
All the darkness in the world

St. Francis’s known works are a pretty short list. You can find most of them at this website (which is not a blanket endorsement of anything you find at the parent site; it carries materials from all sorts of religions), along with the earliest surviving biography, the well-known Little Flowers of St. Francis.

Remember: Saints don’t need fake quotations to be great!

Heisenberg at the bottom of the glass

The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.

Attr. Werner Heisenberg

Wikiquote contributors have done some legwork on this, and I base what follows on what I found there.

The original quotation in German is: “Der erste Trunk aus dem Becher der Naturwissenschaft macht atheistisch, aber auf dem Grund des Bechers wartet Gott.” The source “cited in Ulrich Hildebrand: ‘Das Universum – Hinweis auf Gott?’, in ‘Ethos. Die Zeitschrift für die ganze Familie,’ Berneck, Schweiz: Schwengeler Verlag AG, No. 10, Oktober 1988, p. 10. The quote can not be found in Heisenberg’s published works, and Hildebrand apparently does not declare his source. The renowned journalist Eike Christian Hirsch

A friend of Heisenberg, Dr. Eike Christian Hirsch PhD, said that the content and the style are “foreign to Heisenberg’s convictions and the way he used to express himself.” Also according to Wikiquote, Heisenberg’s children “did not recognize their father in this quote”.

Two sources are suggested: Francis Bacon, “Of Atheism” (1601): “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion,” and Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism“ (1709): “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”

I can hear the axes being ground in the Wikiquote material, so I did a little extra searching on my own.

  1. Google searching for the English quotation adds no new information.
  2. Wikiquote as above.
  3. Wikiquote is right that the quotation is attributed to Heisenberg in the source cited, and no original source appears to be given there.
  4. I Googled for the German version of the quotation as given above, though apparently there are several competing variations. Since I speak basically no German beyond “Gesundheit,” I wasn’t able to gain much, but at least I tried.
  5. Heisenberg was a practicing Lutheran. Here’s an authentic quotation: “In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.” From “Scientific and Religious Truth” (1974).

So I’m not going to say 100% that he never said it, but I’m going to say that it takes much more evidence than I have yet seen to prove that he did, or even to make it likely that he did.

PSA on soon-to-be St. Teresa of Calcutta

I’m quite happy that Mother Teresa will soon be St. Teresa of Calcutta, and not even fauxtations will tarnish that. But, out of respect for her, please don’t attribute to her things it’s known she didn’t say.

“How do I know if she didn’t say something?” I hear you cry. One way is to see if it shows up on the awkwardly (but descriptively) titled page Quotes falsely attributed to Mother Teresa and significantly paraphrased versions or personal interpretations of statements that are not her authentic words.


Of particular note, the “Anyway prayer” is not hers. She liked it but did not write it.