A Plea to Stop Beating the “If Necessary Use Words” Horse

If you have been in or around Christianity or Catholicism within the last 10+ years or so you have undoubtedly heard the now cliche phrase,

“Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.”

This quote is usually attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, although **SPOILER ALERT** he never actually said this.

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I know, I know this is a dated rant. A rant that I have referred to every now and again for probably the last 8 years or so. I have never made a post of my own about it. Every once in a while when the non-quote surfaces I usually feel better after an eye roll or two. Sometimes I might even share one of the many, many articles written on the subject. So why bring it up now?

I thought it would be fun to find some actual quotes from St. Francis to offer as alternatives to this sanctified version of “telephone” that we have been playing for so many years. So here are 3 quote-worthy, bonafide St. Francis of Assisi quotes you might want to pull out of your hat on a Sunday morning when you get the ” If Necessary Use Words” itch.

1. “And when we see or hear an evil [person] speak, act, or blaspheme God, let us speak well, act well, and praise God, Who is blessed forever.” The Earlier Rule of St. Francis

2. “I also admonish and exhort these brothers that, in their preaching , their words be well chosen and chaste, for the instruction and edification of the people…” The Later Rule of St. Francis

3. “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.” –St Francis By Robert West

Now I’m sure the intentions of the “If Necessary Use Words” camp are usually pure and the idea is fine. I mean of course you should live out what you say in your day to day life!  But the idea that people will somehow by osmosis see a light beaming down from heaven when you are acting Christ-like and connect your lifestyle to the saving knowledge of the Gospel through Jesus Christ seems a little Ray Bradbury-esque don’t ya think? Plus I think ol’ Frankie deserves one better.

♥  MM


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