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.


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.

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.

St. Augustine: Take Care of Your Body

Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow. — Attr. St. Augustine

  1. It doesn’t sound like him. It sounds like something created by someone of the “healthiness is next to godliness” mindset.
  2. A Google search turns up a smaller-than-usual collection of the usual suspect sites, none giving citations. The “smaller than usual” part is significant because …
  3. Google Books doesn’t return anything for it before 2009 and …
  4. The alleged quotation doesn’t even appear in the disputed portion of the St. Augustine page on Wikiquote, nor is it on the discussion page.
  5. I tried searching for references to “corpus tuum” in the works of Augustine. My eyes started to glaze over, but I didn’t find anything that could be this quotation.

Points 2-4 make me think it’s a fairly recent invention. Nothing makes me think it’s authentic. But if you know where it is in his works, let me know.

St. Augustine: The Truth is Like a Lion

(I really thought this one was already on the blog, but I did the research on FB almost 2.5 years ago!)

The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself.

–Attr. St. Augustine

This drew my attention because it doesn’t sound like St. Augustine, who was not much given to the use of similes. (Those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours are exposed to massive amounts of St. Augustine, who provides far more of the patristic readings for the Office of Readings than anyone else, far, far more.)

At any rate:

  1. I searched his works at CCEL for the word lion. This quotation was not among the results, nor anything resembling it.
  2. Wikiquote doesn’t have it at all, even on the discussion page list of uncited quotations.
  3. A search of Google Books for truth lion defend itself augustine turned up no references to this quotation before 2014. None, which is very telling since I first spotted it on FB in 2013. Taken with the previous point, this very strongly suggests that the attribution to St. Augustine happened very recently, in late 2012 or early 2013.
  4. All of St. Augustine’s works are available in Latin online. I searched for leo* (all forms of the word for lion) and verita* (all forms of the word for truth). They occur in the same document 125 times, but never close enough even to be the inspiration for this quotation.

So it’s almost certainly not St. Augustine. (Only a very brave person or a very foolish one would claim to be certain that something is not in St. Augustine’s voluminous works!)

The other source I see it attributed to is Charles Spurgeon, a widely-known 19th Century British Particular Baptist preacher. Here’s an excerpt from a speech he gave at a meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1875:

There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself. I do not know whether you see that lion—it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the grand old monarch, the British Lion, with all our strength. Many suggestions are made and much advice is offered. This weapon is recommended, and the other. Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes forth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.

You can see it in a 19th Century book here at Google Books. (Thanks to Barbara Wood for giving me the reference to the speech.)

Spurgeon liked this metaphor; he used it in at least one other spot:

The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.

The Lover of God’s Law Filled with Peace (January 1888), as found on Wikiquote.

Note that in both instances, Spurgeon was speaking about the Bible, not about truth in general, so I’m not 100% certain that this is the genesis of the quotation in question. But it’s the closest I’ve seen.

St. Augustine: Romance, Adventure, Achievement

To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; to seek Him, the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement. — Attr. St. Augustine

This one’s easy. It’s not St. Augustine; it’s Fr. Raphael Simon, O.C.S.O.,  who is credited with it as far back as a 1964 story in Newsweek. I can find something like it in Fr. Simon’s book Formation of the Priest, on p. 125:

Now to fall in love with Jesus requires faith. We have to know the story of Jesus, of His coming into the world, of His teaching and deeds and fellowship in this world, of His passing to the Father, of His coming back in life after death to talk with His disciples and continue His fellowship with them, of His going to the Father and sending into our hearts the Holy Spirit and His love. This is the greatest story in the world, the greatest romance, and we are called to the greatest adventure.

Obviously that’s missing the “human achievement” part, but it shows at the very least that Fr. Simon wrote something along the lines of the quotation, and I suspect he was quoting himself here, in modified form (or perhaps he later expanded on this thought).

I don’t know who attached it to St. Augustine; the earliest I can find it attached to his name is in 1984, in How to Live Life to the Fullest: A Handbook for Seasoned Citizens. 

St. Augustine and right/wrong

Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it.

Attributed to St. Augustine (and also to William Penn, but not recently on Facebook that I’ve seen). It’s actually a modification of a quotation from G. K. Chesterton:

Right is right, even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.

Illustrated London News, May 11, 1907, or Collected Works, 27:463.

It’s not impossible that St. Augustine and/or William Penn said it and GKC took it from one of them, but I can’t find any evidence for that.

St. Augustine’s name seems to have been attached to it only recently. The earliest Google Book reference I can find is 2002.

I did find one person who claims it’s a summary of Ennarations on the Psalms 145:7. Here’s what that passage says:

Right and wrong are contraries. Right is what is just. For not all that is called right, is right. What if a man lay down for you unjust right? Nor indeed is it to be called right, if it is unjust. That is true right, which is also just.

Try as I might, I can’t see that as saying what the alleged quotation says (though it does contain “right is right” as long as you don’t mind an intervening comma.)

I have also been told it’s in City of God. That’s a loooooong book, but I can say that the phrase “right is right” does not appear in the version on Project Gutenberg (and yes, I checked both volumes).

I’m standing by my verdict.