Skip to comments.History: What Did Francis of Assisi Mean When He Said, “If Necessary Use Words”?
Posted on 01/28/2013 2:13:42 PM PST by SeekAndFind
Youve probably heard the quotation at least a few times, most likely in a sermon encouraging people to live their faith in the world.
Preach the gospel at all times, Francis of Assisi said. If necessary, use words.
Its a heartwarming sentiment with two flaws.
First off, St. Francis never said it; second, even if St. Francis spoke these words, they arent true.
Mark Galli puts the historical myth to rest in an article that reads, in part,
First, no biography written within the first 200 years of his death contains the saying. Its not likely that a pithy quote like this would have been missed by his earliest disciples. Second, in his day, Francis was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle. He soon took up itinerant ministry, 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.
He apparently was a bit of a showman. He imitated the troubadours, employing poetry and word pictures to drive the message home. When he described the Nativity, listeners felt as if Mary was giving birth before their eyes; in rehearsing the crucifixion, the crowd (as did Francis) would shed tears.
[An] early biography talked about how his preaching was received: 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.
Ed Stetzer summarizes the problem with the sentiment itself in an article entitled Preach the Gospel and, Since Its Necessary, Use Words.
The Apostle Paul summarized the gospel as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through whom sin is atoned for, sinners are reconciled to God, and the hope of the resurrection awaits all who believe.
The gospel is not habit, but history. The gospel is the declaration of something that actually happened. And since the gospel is the saving work of Jesus, it isnt something we can do, but it is something we must announce. We do live out its implications, but if we are to make the gospel known, we will do so through words.
Either it’s an Urban Legend or he was the Parton Saint of stand-up...
Thanks for this. It drives me nuts everytime I hear someone throw out this fake quote.
It's pretty clear that the Gospel is something that is preached:
As Scripture says, Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentilethe same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!". But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:11-17)
We are saved by faith and that faith effects a spiritual change within the heart of every believer. Consequently, our lives should show the evidence of that intrinsic change and others are attracted to Christ when they see how we live to the glory of God. The idea that we live our faith so that others praise God - and not us - is the reason why, I think, He left us here rather than immediately taking us up once we are born again. We work with the Holy Spirit to call the unsaved to Christ. This should be a strong reminder to us that we have a responsibility to the world to not only preach the Gospel to everyone but to live the Gospel, too.
yes. well said.
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." https://www.americancatholic.org/messenger/oct2001/Wiseman.asp
St. Francis may not have said it, yet actions do speak louder then words and sometimes it works better to walk the walk then to spout the talk. ;)
Amen and Hallelujah!
Conversely, if we are nasty and negative, why would people ever be drawn to the Christ we claim we worship? They would just consider us hypocrites of the worst kind to say one thing, and then act a totally different way.
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Saint Francis was born in Assisi, Italy in 1182. He lived and preached a life of poverty and love of God to all men. He founded the religious Order of the Franciscans; with St. Clare, he founded the Order of the Poor Clares; and the Third Order for lay people. He died in 1226.
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