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.
Amen.

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.

Screwtape on politics?

There’s a screenshot going around on FB alleged to be from the Screwtape Letters, beginning: “Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics,” with the tagline, “Uncle Screwtape~1942.”

That first sentence alone set off alarm flags. It’s not Lewis-ian in vocabulary or phrasing at all. Neither is the rest of the post, which reads a lot like it was written by a frustrated American Christian in 2016.

But to prove the point, I went to Google Books. Even when you can’t see an entire book, Google Books will tell you if a search returned anything. It didn’t:

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-8-11-17-pm

It’s a fauxtation, I’m sure composed in innocent tribute and then picked up upon by someone who didn’t realize what it was.

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!

St. Teresa of Ávila: “If this is how You treat your friends….”

The story runs along these lines: St. Teresa of Ávila had an unfortunate happenstance. Sometimes it is said that she fell off a horse into the mud; sometimes it’s a carriage accident and mud; sometimes there’s no mud at all and it’s an insight she received in prayer. Whatever the circumstances, she heard Jesus say to her, “This is how I treat my friends,” to which she replied, “If this is how You treat your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!”

Did it happen? Someone asked me and I went looking …

Googling for the phrase turned up lots and lots of hits, with no citations. Not good.

Wikiquote doesn’t mention it.

Google Books found it in a 1956 Saturday Review article, quoted as a well-known saying.

And here the trail seemed to go dry. I was suspicious because of the various forms of the story, but I wasn’t quite sure.

So I decided to look for the story in Spanish. With the help of Google Translate, I decided to search for Si así tratas a tus amigos (“If this is how you treat your friends”) which turned up many hits. But the remainder of the phrase varied:

* con razón no tienes muchos.
* con razón tienes tan pocos!
* ahora comprendo por qué tienes tan pocos.
* por eso tienes tan pocos.
* ¡no en balde tienes tan pocos!
and one site had the whole possible-quotation arranged differently: Señor, no me extraña que tengas tan pocos amigos si así tratas a los que tienes.

So I thought for a bit. The story didn’t seem to fit into the general tenor of her autobiography, but I checked the English translation for “friends” and for “treat” without finding the story. I checked the Spanish edition of the first biography written of her,  by Francisco de Ribera, one of her confessors, for the words amigos and tratas, again without finding the story.

I was about ready to throw my hands up in despair and say that the Saturday Review article was passing along a story from I-know-not-where whose reliability cannot be verified when I thought, “Wait! I bet before 1950 they told the story with thou instead of you!” So I Googled for If this be how thou treat thy friends.

Google very kindly tried to turn thou back into you and showed me all the same results I’d already seen. (Why it didn’t search for thou when I asked for you early on, I couldn’t say.) When I insisted on thou (putting a word in quotations will usually convince Google that you really mean it) it still showed me hits for you, but it also showed me hits for thou, and that struck gold. Or gold-ish, in the form of The Life of St. Teresa, a 1912 translation by Alice Lady Lovat “taken from the French of ‘A Carmelite’ Nun,” which gives the following story on page 548. In January of the last year of her life, 1582, she left Ávila to establish convents in Burgos and Grenada, and this befell her along the way:

Teresa describes the journey thus: “We had to run many dangers. At no part of the road were the risks greater than within a few leagues of Burgos, at a place called Los Pontes. The rivers were so high that the water in places covered everything, neither road nor the smallest footpath could be seen, only water everywhere, and two abysses on each side. It seemed foolhardiness to advance, especially in a carriage, for if one strayed ever so little off the road (then invisible), one must have perished.” The saint is silent on her share of the adventure, but her companions relate that, seeing their alarm, she turned to them and encouraged them, saying that “as they were engaged in doing God’s work, how could they die in a better cause?” She then led the way on foot. The current was so strong that she lost her footing, and was on the point of being carried away when our Lord sustained her. “Oh, my Lord!” she exclaimed, with her usual loving familiarity, “when wilt Thou cease from scattering obstacles in our path?” “Do not complain, daughter,” the Divine Master answered, “for it is ever thus that I treat My friends.” “Ah, Lord, it is also on that account that Thou hast so few!” was her reply.

I have been unable to find out anything about the French work from which this was taken, but it is at least certain that the whole story is not a 20th Century invention. I am still curious what the original source might be–the memoirs of one of her compatriots, perhaps? Someone’s letter from the journey? Carmelite oral tradition? But I’m not curious enough to keep looking.