There are various forms of a quotation, all attributed to St. John Chrysostom: “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops,” or: “The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.”
It’s an ancient fauxtation–John Wesley uses it–and known for well over 150 years to be a fake. I give you T.J. Buckton in Notes & Queries ser. 1. V.117 (1852) p. 92:
Hell paved with the Skulls of Priests (Vol. iv., p. 484.). [This refers to the volume in which the question was asked whether the quotation was accurate]— The French priest referred to in this Query had most probably quoted, at second or third hand, and with rhetorical embellishment — certainly not from the original direct — an expression of St. Chrysostom, in his third homily on the Acts of the Apostles :
“οὐκ οῖμαι εῖναι πόλλους ἐν τοῖς ἰερευσι τοὺς σωζομένους, ἀλλὰ πολλῳ πλείους τοὺς ἀπολλυμένους”
I know not if there be many in the priesthood, who are saved, but I know that many more perish.”
Gibbon has also quoted this passage at second hand (v. 399. note z.), for he says :
“Chrysostom declares his free opinion (tom. ix. hom. iii. in Act. Apostol. p. 29.) that the number of bishops who might be saved, bore a very small proportion to those who would be damned.”
It may be safely asserted that the above expression of Chrysostom is the strongest against the priesthood to be found in any of the Christian Fathers of authority in the Church.
T. J. Buckton.
There is really little excuse for a knowledgeable Catholic (or knowledgeable anything else) to continue to attribute the saying to St. John Chrysostom.
Further reading (and the places that told me where to look on Google Books):
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.
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.)
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.
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)
- Unsurprisingly, the list is dominated by St. Augustine and C. S. Lewis (especially since the faux Screwtape post goes into CLS’s account).
- I need a consistent style for post titles.
- Politics sells. 😦
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.
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.