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.


St. Francis de Sales: Your value as a human being

Have patience with all things – but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You are perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no amount of triumphs or tribulations can ever change that.

Attr. St. Francis de Sales.

The first sentence is really his, or close enough. Wikiquote gives it as, “Have patience with every one, but especially with yourself,” which is close enough. WQ says that the source is “Quoted by Bishop Jean-Pierre Camus in The Spirit of Saint Francis de Sales, section ‘Upon Discouragement’.” Bishop Camus was consecrated by St. Francis, who was his spiritual director, so I’ll take that as a good enough source. The full quotation there is:

Have patience with every one, but especially with yourself. I mean, do not be over-troubled about your imperfections, but always have courage enough at once to rise up again when you fall into any of them. I am very glad to hear that you begin afresh every day. There is no better means for persevering in the spiritual life than continually to be beginning again, and never to think that one has done enough.

Link to text

As for the rest of the purported quotation … I would bet (before I look) that St. Francis de Sales never used the phrase “your value as a human being” in his life, so the sentence containing that will be a good search phrase.

  • A Google search turns up the usual suspects (and boy, are they suspect) with no good sources apparent.
  • I already mentioned Wikiquote. The rest of the alleged quotation doesn’t appear there at all.
  • Google Books gives a series of hits from 2006 onward, and … one hit from 1981: New Woman, vol. 11, p. 34. It’s available only in snippet view, and just enough of the snippet is visible to show me that the quotation there is: “Forget about the mistakes and absorb yourself in the joy of creating. ❡ Accept yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You’re a perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person.” It gives a source: Imagineering, by Michael LeBoeuf.

    So I searched for that book, and voila! On page 140, Google Books let me see just enough. LeBoeuf wrote, “4. Accept yourself. St. Francis de Sales wrote, ‘Have patience with all things, but first of all yourself.’ Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You’re a ….” The snippet cuts off there, but that’s enough to tell what happened. The first line of the alleged quotation is St. Francis de Sales. The second line is Michael LeBoeuf. And the rest is someone else–I’m not going to try to figure out who, since I know it’s not the saint.

Since the source of the error can be identified, I can put this one into the definitely false category.

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. 😦

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.

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.

Tolkien: A story without dragons

It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.

Attr. J. R. R. Tolkien, but the very first thing I found when I Googled for it was a site where my work was done for me. He didn’t say it:

This is a line from a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach called Simple Abundance which was at #1 with the New York Times bestseller list. I will quote the relevant paragraphs from the book, it is on pages 26-27 (found via Google Books – also searchable with Amazon, with the 1995 edition it is on page 51):

JRRT’s name got attached because he is indeed quoted (correctly) in the entry of the book (it’s apparently a set of daily thoughts/meditations/whathaveyous) where this quotation appears. But it’s not him.

Newman: Radiating Christ

One of the great privileges of my first two years of priesthood was celebrating Mass several times a week for the Missionaries of Charity in Peoria. It was there that I encountered the prayer “Radiating Christ,” a favorite (according to many places on the Internet) of St. Mother Teresa and chosen by her to be recited after Mass by the sisters of her order.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine.
It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.

It is indeed a beautiful prayer, but I was a little startled to discover one day that it was attributed to Blessed John Henry Newman. Parts of it sound like him; parts of it do not. Is the attribution accurate?

The short answer is that some of it is and some of it isn’t. Here’s the third paragraph of his  mediation “Jesus the Light of the Soul” (Meditations and Devotions Part III, VII, 3):

Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from Thee. None of it will be mine. No merit to me. It will be Thou who shinest through me upon others. O let me thus praise Thee, in the way which Thou dost love best, by shining on all those around me. Give light to them as well as to me; light them with me, through me. Teach me to show forth Thy praise, Thy truth, Thy will. Make me preach Thee without preaching—not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do—by my visible resemblance to Thy saints, and the evident fulness of the love which my heart bears to Thee.

The connection of this to the latter portion of the “radiating Jesus” prayer is evident. But where does the first part come from? Not, I think, from the works of Newman. I searched the Newman Reader website for the word “fragrance,” and none of the hits are anything resembling this. I searched for the words “penetrate and possess,” and they occur nowhere together on the site. Just to be sure, I tried the same sort of search for “sympathetic influence,” and found the quotation I gave above.

Google searches for phrases from the first part of the prayer, both web searches and  Google Books searches, turn up a torrent of hits for the prayers itself and nothing that I could find that could have served as a basis for the first part. Where St. Mother Teresa found it and whether it was she or someone else who first attached it to Newman’s meditation to form the prayer, I can’t tell.