Monday, March 25, 2013

St. Francis Never Said "Preach The Gospel Always! When Necessary Use Words." & He Never Would Have Said It!


I am sure you have heard the oft-quoted statement, which is attributed to St. Francis:
"Preach the Gospel always! When necessary, use words." 
Though the reality is, he never said it. There is no documentation for hundreds of years after his death with any attribution of this quote to St. Francis. Therefore, it is apocryphal.

The sentiment behind the quote is about Christians who don't live as they ought to and need to work on this aspect first. This is true enough. All of us need to work on how we treat others, what we do with our time, how we live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, etc.

Hypocrisy is a terrible thing.

We see that St. Francis agreed that we all need this personal change and transformation of life through a conversion to Jesus. Francis decided he wanted to live a radical life of poverty and service to Jesus Christ. He started to cast off all the trappings of the world and lived for God alone. In the poverty of spirit, which he formed, he found a great call to help others grow closer to the love of Christ.

This love propelled him out into the world to preach Good News to others, while loving them with acts of service. His preaching was powerful, not only because he was a good orator, but because his love for God was reflected in his deeds.

Both his life and his words were a critical part of his mission as an evangelist.

St. Francis never said the phrase above and he never would have, because it leaves out the heart of evangelization - helping others come to know Jesus - by proclaiming His name!

Others cannot know Jesus unless we talk about Him!

St. Francis knew (and so does the Church) that evangelization is NEVER complete, until the saving message of the Gospel is proclaimed. The Church repeats this over and over. Here are but a few statements (emphasis added):
“Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matt 4:17
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” - 1 Pet 3:15
"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" -1 Cor. 9:16
"Go into the whole world, preach the Gospel to every creature" -Matt 28:19
“For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord” - 2 Cor 4:5
"Those who have received the Good News and who have been gathered by it into the community of salvation can and must communicate and spread it." -Paul VI, EN
"even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified - what Peter called always having "your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have" - and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed." -Paul VI, EN
"a necessity lies upon the Church, and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity." -Vatican II, AG
"an apostolate of this kind does not consist only in the witness of one's way of life; a true apostle looks for opportunities to announce Christ by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life. "For the charity of Christ impels us" (2 Cor. 5:14)." -Vatican II, AA
We can see there is OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE that evangelization is not effective or complete until the Good News of Jesus Christ is proclaimed!

St. Paul tells us that he was an “ambassador for Christ.” (2 Cor 5:20). An ambassador, in the time of Paul, was a person given the full authority of the leader they represented.

Therefore, Paul is now an emissary for Christ and carries the saving message of the Lord with him. He is commanded and empowered to share it to others. Yet, it is not only St. Paul and the other apostles who were given this charge, but all who are baptized into Christ.

We have all been baptized/confirmed in order to share in the ministry of Christ to all souls on earth. Do we share the gospel with others when we have the opportunity through both our deeds and words? Let us pray that Christ will give us both the opportunities to witness to his truth in our every day lives and the grace to do share the saving message of Jesus with love.

St. Francis pray for us!

FURTHER READING: 
**Top 10 Ways NOT To Evangelize
**Intro to Evangelization 
**Evangelization is Hard and Scary
**Ask A Catholic A Question: evangelization program 
**The Do's and Don'ts of Evangelization and Apologetics 
**Evangelization of Tenderness 
**Friendship Evangelization 
**Fr. Barron on Evangelizing the Culture
**How To Evangelize Without Being Triumphant
**Talk The Talk

8 comments:

Gert said...

Don't understand the exclamation point. So he never said it. It does not mean that our actions are not as important as our speech. Jesus decried the pharisees hypocrisy.

More people are converted by what they see than what they hear. I believe there is something about conversions to Christianity being inspired by "how they love one another."

Although I am inspired by a strong intellectual argument, I feel called to live my life in a more Christian manner by the example of other Christians.

Marcel said...

It isn't an either/or distinction. That is the point. Too often, the misattributed quote is used as an excuse to say nothing.

All of us MUST live out the Gospel. But, to evangelize, all of us MUST proclaim it too. Both/and.

If you love someone, how could you not talk to them about Jesus?

Adam said...

The phrase is "when NECESSARY use words", and whether or not St. Francis said it he would have supported it.

Perhaps some people do take it as an excuse to do nothing, but what I have been raised and still believe the phrase to mean is to truly act as you believe that is the easiest way for us to spread and demonstrate Christ's love for others. There is no need for example to say anything when hold the door open for someone, or give someone a dollar so they don't have to dig for spare change at the store these are actions that speak for themselves.

No one that I know has ever implied it to mean never preach about the faith or to ignore anyone who asked us a question.

The saying is also a more Christian expansion on the phrase "a picture is worth a 1000 words", when we preach or try to explain some aspect of our faith it is so much easier for people to doubt, but when they see us living it out in our daily lives and the fruits that those actions bear thats how they come to believe.

Marcel said...

"There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed." -Paul VI

Paul O'Brien said...

Just came here to high-five this Marcel guy. He's quite right.

Justin Michael Schwartzbeck said...

I think the point is that we shouldn't use this as an excuse of proclaiming the truth of the gospel as it is important. It is true that good works can and do inspire people to conversion. But don't make the mistake of thinking that everyone converts to a religion based on how nice its adherents are. If that were the case then we would all be mormon. People will convert to Catholicism when they are convinced that Catholic teaching is true. I speak from experience.

Triumphguy said...

In the ACTUAL words of St. Francis:

From the "Earlier Rule:"Chapter XVII "Preachers;" 3. All the brothers, however, should preach by their deeds...

And from "The Later Rule:" Chapter IX "Preachers;" 3. I also admonish and exhort these brothers that, in their preaching, their words be well chosen and chaste... in a discourse that is brief, because it was in few words that the Lord preached while on earth."

Also, from "The Admonitions of Saint Francis:" Chapter XXI: "The Frivolous and Talkative Religious;"

1. Blessed is the servant who, when he speaks , does not reveal everything about himself in the hope of receiving a reward, and who is not quick to speak, but wisely weighs what he should say and how he should reply. 2. Woe to that religious who does not keep in his heart the good things the Lord reveals to him and who does not manifest to others by his actions, but rather seeks to make such good things known by his words. 3. He thereby receives his reward while those who listen to him carry away but little fruit."



Quotes from Regis Armstrong OFM Cap, Ignatius Brady OFM, Francis and Clare: the Complete Works, Paulist Press, 1982

In other words: "Preach the Gospel - use words ONLY if necessary."
Because most of the time people observe our deeds long before they listen to our words.

Marcel said...

I disagree. He is talking about religious life and the countering of hypocrisy.