The NYTimes ran a story about the “Serenity Prayer” and how it may not have been written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, as has been believed.
An article about the mystery of the prayer, by Fred R. Shapiro, associate library director and lecturer at Yale Law School, will be published next week in the Yale Alumni Magazine, an independent bimonthly publication. It will be followed by a rebuttal from Ms. Sifton.
Mr. Shapiro, who edited “The Yale Book of Quotations,” said in an interview, “Reinhold Niebuhr was a very honest person who was very forthright and modest about his role in the Serenity Prayer. My interpretation would be that he probably unconsciously adapted it from something that he had heard or read.”
In his quotation avocation, Mr. Shapiro says he has debunked claims about the provenance of other famous sayings, including Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong will”) and P. T. Barnum’s (“There’s a sucker born every minute”).
In the “Catholic” section of this department, we can add:
- Did St. Augustine write, “He who sings, prays twice?”
- Did Augustine write, “In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity?”
- Did St. Francis of Assisi really say, “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary?”
- Did St. Teresa of Avila write the poem..”Christ has no body now but yours?”
- Did anyone say “The floor of (or way to) Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops?”
Who knows. When this quote first surfaced on the blogs a few years ago, it was variously attributed to Athanasius, John Chrysostom or John Eudes. No one seems to know, and I’ve never seen a citation.
- Did St. Francis of Assisi write the “Peace Prayer?”
No. There’s a bit here. I talk about it at more length in The Words We Pray – you can do the “search the book” thing and read about it here – it starts on p. 109.
Oh, now, don’t worry. All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well….
(Julian of Norwich.)