There is a very famous quote in French Catholic circles that would be translated as something like:

No, I had not studied the Scriptures, but Jesus looked at me on the cross and, in his gaze, I understood everything!

Most pages in French don't give the reference and the little bit of Latin that I know has not been very helpful in search the complete works of Augustine in Latin. Does anyone have an idea of where this quote might come from? Thanks and God bless!

  • Welcome! I'd love to be able to answer this, but won't have time. So I'll point you to what I've found so far, a quote on catholicism.org: "S. Cyril teaches the same as S. Leo (Cat. Lect. xiii.) saying, “What virtue illuminated thee, 0 thief? Who taught thee to love contempt, and that, when thou wast affixed to the cross? 0 light undying, lighting the darkness!” S. Augustine follows out at length the same idea (Serm. xiii. de Temp.)" Looks like that "Serm. xiii. de Temp." might be the answer – just haven't found the full text yet. Commented May 23, 2019 at 21:40
  • Are you referring to Jean Lafrance's quote in Demeurer en Dieu?
    – Geremia
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 0:08
  • @Nathaniel That appears to be excerpted from Cornelius à Lapide's commentary on Lk. 23:42, which has more St. Augustine quotes on the following pages (pp. 495 ff.).
    – Geremia
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 0:32
  • @Geremia Not in particular, no. My professor of Sacred Scripture cites this passage often but has never found the reference and he would like it. I also appears in Le courage d'avoir peur by Fr. Molinié.
    – daveslab
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 10:09
  • It's quoted on the fourth page of this document ending with "En fait, le texte n’est pas de Saint Augustin"
    – b a
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


According to Augustine: A New Biography by James J. O'Donnell,

Samuel Beckett tormented his interpreters with a story he told one time, supposedly to help them understand Waiting for Godot. He used to read, he said, a lot of Augustine in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and recalled one passage in particular: "Do not despair," he remembered Augustine saying, "one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume, one of the thieves was damned." Thinking of Vladimir and Estragon as the two thieves crucified with Jesus is intriguing, to say the least, and is wonderfully Beckett-like that the particular passage cannot be found anywhere in the surviving writings of Augustine or anywhere in the pages of Patrologia Latina, for all that language and tenor are quite perfectly Augustinian. Did Beckett make up the quotation? Is he the most modern of pseudo-Augustines?

When searching around, the quotation is usually appended to Augustine and it is through Beckett that it all started, though it is a growing consensus in academia that it was not Augustine that penned the phrase but Beckett.

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