Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words?
Well, probably not those exact words, but he DID say these, very similar, words:
Nevertheless, let all the brothers preach by their works. And let no minister or preacher appropriate to himself the ministry of brothers or the office of preaching, but let him give up his office without any contradiction at whatever hour it may be enjoined him. (St. Francis, 2019).
So, one can see that the "rule" was the brothers (friars) were to "preach by their works." That does pretty much say what is commonly attributed to him!
These words are rooted in Scripture too. John 13:35-
By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another. (DRB, 1899).
In other words, Jesus was not saying that they will know the Apostles are His Disciples by what they preach, but by them showing the love they have for one another.
One of my instructors relates his experiences and meditations as he walks from Tui to Santiago de Compostela along the Camino Portugues, which is the way of St. James, the Apostle through Spain. He relates how much you can see how the people who live along the Camino Portugues live their faith, day in and day out. You can also see how other pilgrims on the trail have left their own marks of meditation and adoration. The point is, we should all live our faith - all the time - so that those who observe us, like our co-workers, family, and other associates, can see that our faith is not just a Sunday-only thing, but is part of our lives.
One of my purposes for writing this blog entry is related to a request from my instructor, "Pilgrim Paul," (Pilgrim, 2014), but the other reason I have for this is to counter several other writers out there who downplay the St. Francis paraphrase - 1) because he didn't use those words and 2) the Gospel MUST be preached, WITH words.
To the latter point, St. Francis clearly did not say "do not use words," for he himself used MANY words - including the First Rule of the Friars Minor, (Francis, 1209) which I quoted from earlier. The point is - live the Gospel, for that too is preaching - and when necessary, use words. Often we find that using words does not lead to conversion, but leaves one with an emotional response, either entrenched in their position or you are preaching to the choir (those who are already convinced) (Adler, Iacobelli, & Gutstien, 2016).
Adler, R. F., Iacobelli, F., & Gutstein, Y. (2016). Are you convinced? A Wizard of Oz study to test emotional vs. rational persuasion strategies in dialogues. Computers in Human Behavior, 75. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215302867?via%3Dihub
DRB (1899). John 13:35. Douay Rheims Bible, American Edition. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+13%3A35&version=DRA
Pilgrim, P. (2014). Following in the footsteps on the Camino [blog post]. Following in the Footsteps. http://followinginthefootsteps.org/following-in-the-footsteps-on-the-camino/
St. Francis of Assisi (2019). 17: Of preachers. First Rule of the Friars Minor. https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/assisi-the-writings-of-saint-francis-of-assisi