St. Anthony of Padua's Miraculous Speech

The account of St. Anthony of Padua speaking in tongues early in the thirteenth century.

St. Anthony of Padua allegedly spoke in the language of the Holy Spirit before a mixed ethnic and linguistic gathering of Catholic authorities. These people miraculously heard him in their own languages.

This event perhaps is a later addition to the legend of St. Anthony, but the narrative gives valuable insights into what the people during this era perceived the miracle of tongues to be.

Anthony of Padua (1195 to 1231 AD) “was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon and died in Padua, Italy. Noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture, he was the second-most-quickly canonized saint after Peter of Verona. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the patron saint of finding things or lost people.”1

Such an assertion about speaking in tongues forces the critical reader to look further into the original account itself. In this case, two texts were found written in the Latin describing this same event. In accordance to the goals of The Gift of Tongues Project, English translations are provided along with the Latin originals. Normally the English translations, analysis, and Latin source texts are broken into three distinct blog entries. However, this instance is very brief, so all three are blended together into one blog article.

The following statements about St. Anthony speaking in tongues should be added to the historical record concerning the christian doctrine of tongues. The texts themselves carry the idea of the person speaking in one language and the miracle consisted of those hearing it in their native tongues. A critical researcher on St. Anthony’s life, Raphael M. Huber, called this narrative a multinational sermon.2 This explanation is a good way to describe this phenomenon.

The authors of these biographies believed the miracle was one of the audience hearing it in their own language while St. Anthony spoke either in Latin or Portuguese. This is consistent with Pope Benedict the XIV’s view that the miracle of tongues can either be one of speaking or of hearing.3 It is also a tradition that can be traced back over a thousand years.

The separation of time was around 30 to 50 years before the important theologian/philosopher Thomas Aquinas penned his works. The experience was not recognized nor cited in his theological account of tongues. The miracle would have been fresh in the minds of the theologians during Aquinas’ time. Aquinas either did not agree with this miracle and excluded it as a myth, or disagreed with the theological underpinnings, or did not know about it. The last option is the most likely one. It was a later addition to the legend of St. Anthony after Aquinas’ time.

One would also assume that anyone invited to speak before a high-level gathering of Church leaders would have the ability or requirement to speak and the audience to understand in Latin. Addressing the assembly in a language other than Latin in this period seems a remote possibility. Writers such as Dante Alighieri and Roger Bacon during this period give a higher credence to Latin as the language of faith, piety and instruction and frown upon the ability of other languages to communicate in such lofty speech. Perhaps Alighieri and Bacon represent the ideal context but the reality existed that foreign Church leaders did not possess such Latin fluency in either speaking or hearing.

The First account is from Acta Sanctorum

AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217. AASS – the acronym popularly refers to the work called Acta Sanctorum. This book contains short biographies of the lives of the Saints. Acta Sanctorum first began publication in the late sixteenth-century and the last revised publication was completed in 1940. This book likes to give special attention to the miraculous. The Saints are listed in the Acta Sanctorum according to their feast day.

Chapter I.

On the miracle of the confusion and the conversion of the heretics.

The most glorious father, Saint Antonius of Padua, one of the chosen of the Society of Saint Francis, whom the same holy Father on this account called him Bishop because of his life and reputation of preaching. When he began to preach in the Roman Consistory, according to the mandate of the sovereign Pontiff with innumerable foreigners who attended at that place for the reason of the Indulgences and Council (there were in that place Greeks, Latin speakers, French people, Germans, Slavs, English and many other diverse languages), that he at once made a wonderful display in this way the language of the Holy Spirit, because everyone who heard clearly understood with no lack of astonishment to all, and each one heard his own language in which he was born with. And nevertheless he brought up at that time sweet and lofty sounds, so that it was to render everyone who had been sneering into astonishment and wonder. On account of this the Pope called him the ‘Ark of the Covenant.’4

The second account is from Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum ejus

At one time that wonderful vessel of the Holy Spirit, St. Anthony of Padua, one of the chosen followers and companions of St. Francis, whom St. Francis used to call his bishop, was preaching before the Pope and Cardinals in a consistory where there were men from different countries—Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English—and men of many other different languages and idioms. And being inflamed by the Holy Spirit and inspired with apostolic eloquence, he preached and explained the word of God so effectively, devoutly, subtly, clearly, and understandably that all who were assembled at the consistory, although they spoke different languages, clearly and distinctly heard and understood every one of his words as if he had spoken in each of their languages. Therefore, they were all astounded and filled with devotion, for it seemed to them that the former miracle of the Apostles at the time of Pentecost had been renewed, when by the power of the Holy Spirit they spoke in different languages.

And in amazement they said to one another: “Is he not a Spaniard? How then are we all hearing him in the language of the country where we were born—we Greeks and Latins, French and Germans, Slavs and English, Lombards and foreigners?” 5

The Latin original of AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217:

Gloriosissiumus Pater, S. Antonius de Padua, unus de electis Sociis S. Francisci : quem idem sanctus Pater, propter vitam et praedicationis famam, suum Episcopum a appellabat ; cum Romae in Concilio, de mandato summi Pontificis, peregrinis innumerabilus, qui illuc propter Indulgentias et Concilium convenerant, prædicaret (erant enim ibi Graeci, Latini, Francigenae, Theutonici, Sclavi, et Anglici, et aliarum linguarum diversarum) sic Spiritus sanctus linguam, ut quondam sanctorum Apostolorum, mirificavit ; quod omnes, qui audiebant, non sine omnium admiratione ipsum clare intelligebant : et unusquisque audiebat linguam suam, in qua natus erat. Et tunc tam ardua et melliflua eructavit, quod omnes reddiderit stupore et admiratione suspensos : propter quod Papa ipsum, Arcam testamenti vocavit.

The Latin original of Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum ejus, including the header not included in the translation:

Qualiter sanctus Antonius prædicans ab hominibus diversarum linguarum fuit clare intellectus. Cap. 48

1. Vas admirable sancti Spiritus sanctus Antonius de Padua, unus de electis discipulis beati Francisci, quem sanctus Franciscus suum episcopum appellabat, quum prædicaret in consilio coram papa et cardinalibus, ubi erant Græci et Latini, Francigenæ; et Teutonici, Sclavi et Anglici et multi alii diversarum linguarum,

2. Spiritu sancto afflatus, lingua apostolica inflammatus, eructans mellifluum verbum, omnes illos tam diverarum linguarum in dicto consilio congregatos, luculentissime et clare ipsum audientes et distincte intelligentes, reddidit tanta admiratione et devotione suspensos,

3. ut videretur renovatum illud antiquum apostolorum mirabile [76 b 2] admirantium et dicentium : « Nonne iste Hispanus est? Et quomodo nos omnes audimus per eam linguam nostram in qua nati sumus, Græci et Latini, Francigenæ et Teutonici, Sclavi et Anglici, Lombardi et Barbari?

4. Papi etiam stupens ad tam profunda de scripturis divinis a sancto Antonio prolata, dixit: « Vere ist arca testamenti et divinarum Scripturarum armarium est. »

  2. Raphael M. Huber. St. Anthony of Padua. Doctor of the Church Universal. A Critical Study of the Historical Sources of the Life, Sanctity, Learning, and Miracles of the Saint of Padua and Lisbon. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company. 1948. Pg. 130
  3. See Benedict the XIV on Tongues: An analysis for more info
  4. My translation of the Latin from AASS June II: 13 Pg. 216 – 217, Legenda Alia Seu Liber Miraculorum. Chronici Ordinis olim insertus et ex MSS erutus a R.P. Luca Waddingo
  5. The English translation as found in Christine F. Cooper-Rompato. The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages. USA: Pennsylvania State University. 2010. Pg. 28

1 thought on “St. Anthony of Padua's Miraculous Speech”

  1. I am very grateful to know and pray to St. Anthony of Padua. He helps intercede for my prayer requests , now I am asking for a share of his eloquence, so I could deliver lessons effectively so the students could learn and be successful, so we can all praise God for his graces and his blessings. May I be a good servant with the help of the saints.


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