St. Francis "use words if needed"

Did St. Francis say this?

Did anyone say it before him?

THANKS!!!

Both Peter Herbeck and Scott Hahn have stated that St. Francis never said this.

In fact Scott Hahn refers to it as a “medievel urban legend”.

What is the real story then. I have heard so many versions of what transpired that led to this quote that I am very interested in what really happened.

Great. Except that they are wrong. Sort of. Father Francis did not say exactly this. What he said was (from the Rule of 1221):

In Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, Francis told the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.”

Pretty much the same, no? :slight_smile:

A similar piece of advice was suggested by St. Peter in 1 Pet. 3:1: " Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives."

It’s the same idea of evangelizing through our behavior instead of the spoken word.

Here is the story I have heard and I am sure it is urban legend:

St. Francis and another brother walked into a town to preach the gospel. As they walked through the town they visited with people, talked with the poor and sick, and were kind to every one they saw. After leaving the town the brother asked St. Francis “when are we going to preach to them” and St. Francis answered, “We just did.”

Just goes to show how many stories there are out there about this one commonly known/used phrase. I doubt we will ever find the origin, but if someone knows PLEASE share it with me! :slight_smile:

Actually I would have to say “no”. Not at all.

At least not the way that the phrase is often used. Often people say that they don’t need to “speak” the good news, just live it, and claim St. Francis’ alleged comment, that we should preach the Gospel always and “when necessary use words” as the justification. It seems to me that Francis would surely take issue with any attempt to minimize the spoken aspect. Certainly it is very Franciscan to “live” the Gospel message, but Francis “preached” it loudly and often too, as did those in his community who were authorized to do so.

His first biographer, Thomas of Celeno, writing just three years after Francis’ death, quotes him instructing his co-workers in the Gospel thusly,
The preacher must first draw from secret prayers what he will later pour out in holy sermons; he must first grow hot within before he speaks words that are in themselves cold.
Mark Galli, senior managing editor at Christianity Today, wrote a wonderful little book on Francis as well as a clarifying brief article on the myth of this quote. He explains that Francis was quite a preacher, actually more along the lines of Jonathan Edwards or Billy Sunday than most of those who misquote him would like to think. Galli quotes Thomas’ biography,
His words were neither hollow nor ridiculous, but filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, penetrating the marrow of the heart, so that listeners were turned to great amazement.
Our man clearly spent a great deal of time using his words when he preached, “sometimes preaching in up to five villages a day, often outdoors. In the country, Francis often spoke from a bale of straw or a granary doorway. In town, he would climb on a box or up steps in a public building. He preached to . . . any who gathered to hear the strange but fiery little preacher from Assisi.” He was sometimes so animated and passionate in his delivery that “his feet moved as if he were dancing.”

Here is the Scott Hahn article I was referring to:

christendom.edu/news/2013/09-17-hahn.php

The relevant part:

Hahn debunked the myth that St. Francis said, “preach the Gospel at all times and use words when necessary,” saying that there is no proof or historical record of the saint saying those words to his friars.

“I would want to say this to those who use that as an excuse,” he continued. “Just look in the mirror some evening and ask yourself, ‘Am I so upright, so virtuous, so compelling that all people really need to do is just keep their eyes on me and my life and that should be sufficient to give them the grace of conversion?’ Before you answer that question yourself, ask your spouse or your roommate. You may be in for a surprise.”

. . . and here is the Peter Herbeck article

renewalministries.net/files/newsletters/january_2014_newsletter_web.pdf

Go to page two and find:

[FONT=NewBaskerville-Roman][size=2][LEFT]
I think most Catholics have heard this quote at
one time or another. It’s the line we as Catholics
like to use when speaking about evangelization. As
you probably know, it is attributed to St. Francis.
There is a double irony in using this phrase.
First, St. Francis never said it, and second, it is
often used to imply that somehow St. Francis only
rarely found it “necessary to use words.” The saint’s
approach to preaching couldn’t be further from
the truth. St. Francis loved to preach:
“He filled all the earth with Christ’s Gospel,
so that often in one day he would make the
circuit of four or five villages or even towns
preaching to everyone the Gospel of the
Kingdom of God: and, edifying his hearers
not less by his example than by his words,
he had made a tongue of his whole body.”
([/size][/FONT][FONT=NewBaskerville-Italic][size=2]First Life of St. Francis[/size][/FONT][FONT=NewBaskerville-Roman][size=2], Thomas of Celano,
Chapter IV, #97)[/LEFT]

[/size][/FONT]

I get your point. But citing a misrepresentation of what Francis meant/said is not an argument against what he really said.

His meaning, I am pretty sure, is basically: it is good (even laudable) to talk the talk, but only if you also walk the walk. :slight_smile:

I admit that what he actually said makes far, far better sense than what he was supposed to have said. What he was supposed to have said is a dumbed down, smarmy version of what he really said. But it isn’t awful. It, like any only one sentence taken out of context, can certainly be misunderstood. That, however, is the fault of the too selective reader, not St. Francis. :slight_smile:

THANKS!!!

I will keep watching this.

THANKS!

That’s how I’ve understood it.

No disrespect to Dr. Hahn but I would expect what he said from an apologist. :wink: (Ifinish my thought below…)

. . . and here is the Peter Herbeck article

renewalministries.net/files/newsletters/january_2014_newsletter_web.pdf

Go to page two and find:

[LEFT][size=2][FONT=NewBaskerville-Roman]I think most Catholics have heard this quote at[/size]
one time or another. It’s the line we as Catholics
like to use when speaking about evangelization. As
you probably know, it is attributed to St. Francis.
There is a double irony in using this phrase.
First, St. Francis never said it, and second, it is
often used to imply that somehow St. Francis only
rarely found it “necessary to use words.” The saint’s
approach to preaching couldn’t be further from
the truth. St. Francis loved to preach:
“He filled all the earth with Christ’s Gospel,
so that often in one day he would make the
circuit of four or five villages or even towns
preaching to everyone the Gospel of the
Kingdom of God: and, edifying his hearers
not less by his example than by his words,
he had made a tongue of his whole body.”[/LEFT]

(
[LEFT][/FONT][FONT=NewBaskerville-Italic][size=2]First Life of St. Francis[/size][/FONT][FONT=NewBaskerville-Roman][size=2], Thomas of Celano,[/size][/FONT][/LEFT]

[LEFT][size=2][FONT=NewBaskerville-Roman]Chapter IV, #97)[/size][/FONT][/LEFT]

[LEFT]I suppose people might interpret it as a cop out from “preaching” but if I have an opportunity to preach but I have a reputation of being jerk, my preaching isn’t going to mean very much. [/LEFT]

Exactly. :):thumbsup:

I certainly don’t disagree with either of you, but I personally have often had good Catholic men and women tell me that they don’t see the need to talk about their faith, and it makes them uncomfortable to do so. That they prefer to just try to live a good life and be an example, and that “besides St Francis said, preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words.” They are implying an “only” when necessary there.

The problem is that it IS used as a cop out. Often. So often in fact that in my experience, his original intention (St. Francis’) that you two have so eloquently articulated, has been completely lost.

The reason I asked was Mother Therese said the scientists are always trying to show that God was (that is close to a direct quote). She said that it is love that demonstrates God existence.

I was studying the Gospel of St. John and Jesus says: “if you do not believe me, believe the works that I do.”

THANKS!

I will continue watching. THANKS!!!

At first I thought you were sewing sour grapes, but, no, you’re absolutely right.

So it occurs to me that in order to preach the gospel with or without words, one must first know it. And that, my friends is where we are so sorely lacking these days. Not because we don’t hear it in Church; but because it isn’t written in our hearts.

Seriously. How many people reduce the Gospel to the “golden rule”: “Love your neighbor as yourself”; but entirely leave off the first part: “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law? Jesus answered:Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”
Matthew 22:36-39

Or know “The truth shall set you free” but leave off: "Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

I could go on.

Hey, and thanks for setting the record straight *again *about St. Francis.

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