The story of second-century St. Patiens going to the city of Metz in northeast France and speaking in tongues.
St. Patiens of Metz is a mysterious figure in the annals of ecclesiastical biographies. His existence is sure, but the details are sketchy. We do know he died around 157 AD,1 and was the fourth bishop appointed to the city of Metz – a northeastern city in France that is a geographic intersection between many other European cultures and languages.
Where St. Patiens came from, it is not known. However, he was not originally from the Metz region, nor did he speak whatever language was spoken there. I hesitate to write that these people spoke French because the land of the Gauls (ancient France) did not have a unified language and some regions had no relationship to the French language at all. According to the Acta Sanctorum, the people of Metz spoke a barbaric language. The term barbaric is reserved for languages and peoples that are remote, isolated or hostile. French may have been included in the list of barbaric languages during this period, but this is not certain.
The following English translation is drawn from only one source, Acta Sanctorum . This book may be drawing from a fabricated myth relating to his name because of a fight between two religious orders. The religious orders, l’abbaye Saint-Clément and l’abbaye Saint-Arnould, had a strong competition between each other during the tenth and fourteenth centuries. L’abbaye Saint-Clément asserted their ministry was based on St. Clement of Metz, arguably the first-ever bishop of Metz.2 Later mythology had Clement of Metz as a “vanquisher of a local dragon.”3
The rival L’abbaye Saint-Arnoud countered with their version of St. Patiens. They argued that he was a follower of the Apostle John and met him on a trip to Asia minor.4 They may have also supplied the myth that he supernaturally spoke in tongues to support their claim as the more credible church order. However, it is hard to validate any of these claims or to understand the actual dating of Clement of Metz or Patiens. There are many contradictions. There simply isn’t enough information to build a proper framework.
His biography demonstrates how the Medieval Catholic writers of Acta Sanctorum understood the Christian rite of speaking of tongues. Acta Sanctorum is an encyclopedic text of Christian saints organized on their feast day. It was first begun in the early 1600s with additions and corrections being made until 1940. It is not an old document in the literary sense, but has value in reflecting the beliefs of tongues at the time.
The definition of speaking in tongues is clearly defined in their story of St. Patiens. They believed this operation was the spontaneous speaking in a foreign language unknown beforehand. This is abundantly clear with no concept of an alternative definition. Nor do the authors delve deeply into the mechanics behind this miracle.
Enclosed is an English translation. Late Medieval Latin is new to me and there are definite variations from Classical Latin. I was unprepared for these challenges before starting the Medieval translation series. It is a work in progress.
My rough English translation from the Latin source text
7. Blessed Patiens is therefore emboldened by such a great miracle and with the ancestral recollection. He took up the pastoral office, he asks for the blessing of this very gift named by the many and relics of the Saints and by the Book of the Gospel. He takes an unknown road with those through sea bays of Illyria and the Adriatic. He avoids the wide-ranging difficulty of the journey with Christ as the guide and finally ended-up in the territory of the Gauls. O Miracle! The language of the uncivilized peoples, which he previously did not understand, he understood, and responded, and as necessity required. This was the sign of the miraculous relating to the first ones established in the Church, that whom the Apostles anointed and appointed for the purpose of preaching to the nations. Immediately they openly received the knowledge of languages, even as the Acts of the Apostles describes of Cornelius. And so with this certain proof, the blessed St. Patiens arrived at the city of Metz, who the ecclesiastical order along with the people of faith rejoice about the arrival. And then is encouraged from this state which from the revelation previously had been celebrated is registered as the successor of St. Felix who was the third after the blessed Clement ruled the city.
The Latin from Acta Sanctorum
AASS: Jan. 8 Pg. 469-70 verses 7 – 85
7. Confortatur itaque tanto B. Patiens miraculo, et admonitione paterna. Pastorale suscepit officium, multisque Sanctorum pignoribus ac ipsius Evangelii codice donatus benedictionem petit, accipit : ignotum iter cum suis per Illyrici et Adriatici sinus maria arripit : tandemque Christo duce difficultatem itineris multimodam evadit, Gallorum fines intravit. Mirare ! Linguam Barbarorum, quam pridem ignorabat, intelligebat, et respondebat, necessariaque requirebat. Fuit hoc insigne miraculum in Ecclesia primitivorum, ut quos Apostoli chrismate præsignabant, vel ad prædicandum gentibus ordinabant, illico manifeste scientiam linguarum accipiebant, sicut de Cornelio Actus Apostolorum narrant. Itaque certo indicio B. Patiens Metim civitatem devenit : quo deveniente Ecclesiasticus ordo cum fideli populo lætatur,et tam ex habitu quam ex revelatione pridem celebrata, de successore S. Felecis, qui tertius post B. Clementem rexerat Urbem, certificatur, consolatur.
- This person had no association with Clement of Rome or by his other name Pope Saint Clement I
- Joannes Bollandus. Acta Sanctorum. Godefrido Henscheno, Danielle Papebrochio. Joanne Camandet, ed. Paris: Victorem Palmé. 1867