St. Augustine: No Son without suffering

God had one Son on earth without sin, but none without suffering.

Attr. St. Augustine
  • It doesn’t sound to me like him, but I’ve been wrong before.
  • A general search on the web returns all the usual suspect sites that carry unverified quotes without citations.
  • Wikiquote has it on the discussion page as unsourced.
  • Google Books: a trip through time:
    • It’s on a list of copyrighted works from 1953 (I think someone made a card with that on it and copyrighted the card).
    • It’s in the Kindergarten-primary Magazine from 1920 (vol. 32, p. 224). At this point I can conclude that if it is faux, it is at least long-standing faux.
    • It’s in the 1892 edition of (I’m not making this up) The International Good Templar (vol. 5, p. 324). No citation, of course.
    • The Christian Week, Dec. 31, 1879. This was the oldest hit I got from Google Books (I didn’t list them all), and it doesn’t give a source, which suggests that it was a well-known saying at the time.
  • Searching CCEL for the phrase turned up nothing.
  • As a last desperate attempt, I tried searching the complete Latin works of St. Augustine, available here. I guessed that “without suffering” would either be sine patienta or sine dolore. I got nearly 300 results for each search, but none of those results was the alleged quotation

Conclusion: If it’s faux, it’s old-school faux, but I think that faux it is indeed.

Augustine: God loves each of us

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

Attr. St. Augustine

This comes in various paraphrases, but what they all have in common is that they aren’t quite what St. Augustine said (the level of quiteness varies from paraphrase to paraphrase). Someone has done most of the legwork for me in this blog post.

The saying appears to originate in St. Augustine’s Confessions, 3.11.19, where he says this:

O thou Omnipotent Good, thou carest for every one of us as if thou didst care for him only, and so for all as if they were but one! (Tr. Albert C. Outler)

In Latin, that’s o tu bone omnipotens, qui sic curas unumquemque nostrum tamquam solum cures, et sic omnes tamquam singulos

I leave it to the reader to decide whether or not the saying at the top of this post is an acceptable paraphrase.

St. Augustine and forgiving injustice

If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him–lest there be two bad men.

St. Augustine?

It’s good advice, but is it from St. Augustine?

  • A generic Google search turns up generic unsourced answers.
  • Wikiquote doesn’t have it at all.
  • Google Books has it as far back as the first decade of the twentieth century in two places that are, as far as I can tell, independent of each other. One is St. Andrew’s Cross, Vol. XXIII (July 1909), and the other is The Church Times (Diocese of Milwaukee) Vol. XIX, No. 3 (Nov. 1908). St. Andrew’s Cross was published in Boston, so it’s not likely (though not impossible) that its editors found the quotation in Milwaukee’s diocesan paper. It would not surprise if they’re drawing on a common source that I have been unable to find.

So I went looking in St. Augustine’s works. The search engine there is very nicely designed to handle Latin because it finds conjugated/declined/etc. forms of the search terms. The big problem here is that most of the words in the alleged quotation are very common. I chose injustice as the least common. In Latin, that’s iniustitia, which shows up 59 times. None of the 59 is this saying.

I’m reluctant to close the (metaphorical) book on this, but it’s not looking good.

Update: A commenter below found the source, and it doesn’t contain “iniustitia”. It’s from St. Augustine’s Exposition on Psalm 30:

“Inimici homines, qualescumque fuerint, non sunt odio habendi; ne cum odit malus quem patitur malum, sint duo mali.”

Which is, in English (working from the two translations in the comment below to achieve one fluent and accurate one):

Men who are our enemies, whatever kind they may be, must not be held in hatred, lest when a bad man hates a bad man from whom he is suffering, there be two bad men.

It would make more sense to me if it read “when a good man hates a bad man,” and the modern English translation below treats it that way, but that’s not how St. Augustine wrote it.

In any case, the meme is certainly based on this saying, but heavily paraphrased, and I will so mark it.

St. Augustine: Past, present, future

Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.

Attr. St. Augustine

It doesn’t sound like St. Augustine to me, but I’ve been wrong before, so ….

  1. General Google search = lots of hits but nothing with a citation.
  2. It’s not on his Wikiquote page nor on the discussion page.
  3. Google Books found a book with a citation! However, a citation to City of God with no book/chapter etc. isn’t very precise. I filed this away to check later and looked at the rest of results. I found it as far back as 1949, given as a well-known dictum from St. Augustine.
  4. So is it in City of God?

I used the Schaff text of City of God from CCEL and looked for the words past (occurs 86 times), future (123 times; he spends a lot of time on God’s ability to know the future), mercy (111 times), and providence (46 times). I didn’t look for present because it occurs 368 times. I am fairly confident that the alleged quotation doesn’t occur in this version of City of God, and since I’d think at least some of those words would show up even if the translation were different, I’m only slightly less confident that it doesn’t appear in any version of City of God.

Does it occur somewhere else in St. Augustine’s work? The invaluable St. Augustine website has all his works in Latin and a search engine (albeit one with an Italian user interface). I searched for providentia (providence), and the search engine is kind enough to find all the inflected forms as well. I chose that word because it really has only one Latin equivalent, whereas the others have several options. I got 144 hits, none of which are the quotation in question.

Taking a not-entirely wild guess at other possible words in the quotation, I used praeterita (past things), futura (future things) and misericordia (mercy). No dice. 

I searched for Augustine past present future providence with no results, thereby ruling out a considerable portion of St. Augustine’s works.

I’m always happier when I can find the point at which a fauxtation came into being, but if St. Augustine did ever say this, it’s doing a great job of hiding from me.

St. Augustine and the daughters of hope

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

Attr. St. Augustine.

This didn’t meet the “sounds right” test to me–St. Augustine is generally not one for extended metaphors like this. He does do extended similes, but not metaphors.

Wikiquote has this on the talk/disputed page, given a citation from Spirituality and Liberation: Overcoming the Great Fallacy (1988) by Robert McAfee Brown, p. 136. That book happens to be searchable at Google Books, but the alleged quotation is not found there. (Perhaps Google doesn’t have the whole thing searchable.)

I went searching through Google Books for the phrase. It turns up in a lot of books connected with liberation theology (which doesn’t make the attribution false). One of the hits does have a footnote, but it simply cites a somewhat earlier (1987) book and says that there’s no citation given in that book.

I then found another book by Robert McAfee Brown in which he calls it “a reflective comment whose location in the Augustinian corpus I wish I could pinpoint” (Speaking of Christianity, p. 74). In other words, he doesn’t know where it’s from either.

Then I found this from Archbishop Chaput: “The words are apocryphal. There’s no real evidence that Augustine ever wrote them” (Strangers in a Strange Land, p. 162). (He goes on to add, “But their content is clearly true and worth remembering as a guide to Christian discipleship.”)

I poked around a little more but couldn’t find much of anything more helpful. Google Books doesn’t have anything before 1987. Given the amount of negative evidence, I’m not going to try guessing at Latin phrases to search for in Augustine’s work. I’m just going to say that however beautiful and helpful the thought may be (cf. +Chaput, above), it didn’t come from the mind of St. Augustine.

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.

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. 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.