That pretty much says it all…
“Preach the gospel always; and if necessary, use words.”
Attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. As clever as it might sound, he never said it. And he wouldn’t have, anyways. First of all, Francis preached at every opportunity he was given and his peaching pierced the hearts of those who heart him. He was witty and bold. The issue with his misquote is that it produces a sense of laziness and is a poor excuse for the neglect in many to proclaim the gospel.
Preach the gospel always; and always double check your sources.
“You don’t need to believe in God to be a good person.”
Popularly attributed to Pope Francis. Sorry, another new-agey quote that gets repeated too often, and it was definitely not said by Pope Francis. Yes, the Church teaches that anyone, even atheists, can choose to do what is right. More importantly, being “good” isn’t good enough—otherwise Christ’s work on the cross was surfeit and excessive. Being good is okay, but Christianity is about being confirmed to God, being holy, being perfect. There’s a standard we can’t putz around with.
“God helps those who help themselves.”
Some 82 perfect of people believe this is a real bona fide quote from the Bible. It’s not. It has more roots in Greek plays about Hercules (literally, true story) than it does in the Bible. It’s not simply wrongfully attributed to Sacred Scripture, but it’s against the councils on grace that the Church provides us. The Catholic Church teaches that it is by God’s grace, first, that we come to know him. He reveals himself to us, not under our own power. Heretics arguments to this were defeated in the 4th and 5th centuries, known as Pelagianism, and Semi-Pelagianism. I always say, pray for grace, and pray for the grace to pray.
“Rome has spoken, the case is closed.”
Apparently attributed to Saint Augustine, this quote, too, is a farce. He did say something similar after some trouble with heretical opinions: “Already on this matter two councils have sent to the Apostolic See, whence also rescripts (reports) have come. The cause is finished; would that the error also be finished.” The misquote might seem “close enough” but upon a closer inspection, we realize that it opens a debate about what “Augustine actually said” which may cause the champion of the Catholic faith quoting him to appear less than knowledgable, or open up more debate on what Saint Augustine meant. The actual quote from Augustine fairly treats the matter, though: he believed in the hierarchical authority of the Church, that the bishops of the world to operate in communion with the bishop of Rome in deciding matters of faith and morals.
Quoting the saints is particularly important in the work of evangelization and apologetics. We can use the words of the most gifted scholars to make powerful arguments, and we can use the words of the holiest of persons to benefit our own souls and to bless others with wisdom, too. But quoting correctly is vitally important. Not everything that sounds smart is true, and not everything attributed to a saint was said by that saint.
To learn more, I highly recommend apologist Trent Horn’s new book, What the Saints Never Said: Pious Sisquotes and the Subtle Heresies They Teach You from Catholic Answers Press.