St. Francis de Sales and Just Anger

There never was an angry man who thought his anger unjust.

Attr. to St. Francis de Sales, who did say it, sort of. I looked at this years ago (pre-blogging days), and here’s what I found:

St. Francis de Sales said this in Introduction to the Devout Life, but he didn’t originate the quotation. He is explicitly quoting St. Augustine’s “Letter to Profuturus” (Letter 38). Here’s what St. Augustine wrote:

And well do you know, my excellent brother, how, in the midst of such offenses, we must watch lest hatred of any one gain a hold upon the heart, and so not only hinder us from praying to God with the door of our chamber closed, but also shut the door against God Himself; for hatred of another insidiously creeps upon us, while no one who is angry considers his anger to be unjust. For anger habitually cherished against any one becomes hatred, since the sweetness which is mingled with what appears to be righteous anger makes us detain it longer than we ought in the vessel, until the whole is soured, and the vessel itself is spoiled. Wherefore it is much better for us to forbear from anger, even when one has given us just occasion for it, than, beginning with what seems just anger against any one, to fall, through this occult tendency of passion, into hating him.

Good advice, I think.

Anyhow, this is a rare example of a quote’s being taken away from St. Augustine (who is often on the receiving end of fauxtating) and being assigned to someone else. Granted, many translations of the Introduction don’t put this passage in quotation marks, so it would be easy enough to conclude that it is St. Francis’s commentary on what St. Augustine said.


St. Brigid’s Great Lake of Beer

I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.

Attr. St. Brigid.

I was willing to believe this one is legit, but I felt like checking anyhow. Wikiquote has it, but only gives a book from 1996 as a source. The book (I found it on Google Books) doesn’t give a source, and books like this have been known to be the source of fauxtations, so I needed a better source.

I went Googling and quickly turned up the Gaelic original:

Ropadh maith lem corm-lina mor
do rígh na rígh;
Ropadh maith muinntir nimhe
acca hól tre bithe shir.

(Spelling varies between sources.)

And with that in hand, it was easy to trace it. It goes back to an 8th Century manuscript preserved (at least in the 1890s) in the Burgundian Library in Brussels in which it’s attributed to St. Brigid, and that’s about as good as you’re going to get for a 1500 year-old quotation from a largely pre-literate society. See (I am not making this up) “Highland Plant Uses”.

The moral of the story is that authentic quotations are usually easy to trace.

Acts, habits, character … Thomas à Kempis?

Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.

Attributed, I know not how, to Thomas à Kempis. It sounds nothing like him, and a quick Google search showed:

  • This is a truncated form of the saying, which goes like this:

    Watch your thoughts, they become words;
    watch your words, they become actions;
    watch your actions, they become habits;
    watch your habits, they become character;
    watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

  • It’s attributed to all sorts of people.
  • The Quote Investigator got there long before I did, and Thomas à Kempis is not among the sources he found.
  • The earliest attribution to Thomas à Kempis I can find is in the 2006 book Big Wisdom (Little Book) by Thomas Nelson.
  • The oldest place I can find the quotation on the same page as Thomas à Kempis’s name is from 1920 in the Confectioner’s Journal, vol. 46, p. 176, in a set of “Short Sayings by Great Men” on the topic of habits. Note that the saying isn’t attributed to him here (Thomas à Kempis did say, “Habit is overcome by habit“), but at least his name is on the page. I suspect that  Thomas Nelson, or his source, found a similar set of sayings and associated the wrong name with the fauxtation in question.

Working and praying with St. Augustine, St. Ignatius, et al.

Work as if everything depended on you; pray as if everything depended on God.

Attr. to St. Augustine. Also to St. Ignatius of Loyola. And to Martin Luther.

A generic Google turned up the usual fluff, but it also found the quotation attributed to St. Ignatius in CCC 2834, footnoted as “Attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola, cf. Joseph de Guibert, SJ, The Jesuits: Their Spiritual Doctrine and Practice, (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1964), 148, n. 55.” That’s scarcely a primary source. But I got to wondering what the Latin text of the CCC gives as a citation, and it gives a better one: “Dictum sancto Ignatio de Loyola attributum; cf Petrus de Ribadeneyra, Tractatus de modo gubernandi sancti Ignatii, c. 6, 14: MHSI 85, 631.” [Saying attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola; cf. Peter of Ribadeneira, Tract on the method of governing of Saint Ignatius.]

Peter of Rebadeneira was one of the early Jesuits, well-acquainted with St. Ignatius, and the first person to write a biography of him. I can’t locate an online copy of the work in question, but I’m willing to call this one for St. Ignatius pending further information.

2018 Edit: In his book What the Saints Never Said, Trent Horn gives the quotation from Peter of Rebadeneira:

In matters which he took up pertaining to the service of our Lord, he made use of all the human means to succeed in them, with a care and efficiency as great as if the success depended on these means; and he confided in God and depended on his providence as greatly as if all the other human means which he was using were of no effect.


St. Josemaría Escrivá: Saints and sinners

A saint is a sinner who keeps trying.–attr. St. Josemaría Escrivá

This saying is also attributed to St. Teresa of Calcutta and to Nelson Mandela. The closest form of it I can find in St. Josemaría’s work is this:

Don’t forget that the saint is not the person who never falls, but rather the one who never fails to get up again, humbly and with a holy stubbornness.–In the Footsteps of Christ, 131.

Without disrespect to St. Josemaría, I will say that I strongly doubt that the idea is original to him, and I doubt even more that he’s responsible for the original quotation.

As for Nelson Mandela, the closest I can find is this:

No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.–Letter to Winnie Mandela (1 February 1975)

I can’t find a reliable source attributing it to Mother Teresa at all.

ETA: A friend tells me that it’s also attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson. Wikipedia tells me that RLS was a self-professed atheist, and a Google Books search through his works turns up nothing.

St. Francis de Sales on anxiety

Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul, except sin. God commands you to to pray, but He forbids you to worry. — Attr. St. Francis de Sales

The first sentence of the quotation is authentically St. Francis de Sales, from Introduction to the Devout Life, Part IV, Chapter 11. (Almost authentically; it’s been shortened and meme-ized.) But the second sentence of the alleged quotation isn’t from Devout Life; in fact, it doesn’t come from St. Francis de Sales at all. Google will quickly tell you that it comes from St. John Vianney, but usually without a reference. My friend Fr. Jerabek found the reference for me; it’s from one of the Curé’s homilies on refraining from Sunday labor. (“Il vous commande la prière, mais il vous défend l’inquiétude.”)

I was curious to see if I could tell when the two quotations were joined together. The earliest conjunction I have found is from 2009, when it appeared on EWTN’s website.

Taking a shine to C.S. Lewis

Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him.

Attributed to C. S. Lewis, but not by him. Someone already did the work on this for me.

Earliest known attribution to CSL is 2014. It’s not even on the discussion page for Lewis at Wikiquote, so I knew it was mostly likely a recent misattribution.

Additional thought: This sounds an awful lot like something from Cardinal Newman’s meditation on radiating Christ, which is the foundation for the Missionaries of Charity’s prayer discussed here.