Monthly Archives: February 2016

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 before a mixed ethnic and linguistic gathering of Catholic authorities while the audience 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)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_of_Padua

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)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 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)See Benedict the XIV on Tongues: An analysis for more info

The experience was not recognized nor cited in Thomas Aquinas’ theological account of tongues which suggests that Aquinas either didn’t agree with this miracle, or didn’t know about it. The separation of time between this alleged incident and Thomas’ writing would only have been around 30 to 50 years. The miracle would have been fresh in the minds of the theologians during Aquinas’ time. The text concludes a miracle of hearing which Aquinas does not support.

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’.[ref]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

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?” (4)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

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. »

References   [ + ]

Benedict XIV on Tongues: Analysis

Discovering and understanding Pope Benedict the XIV’s treatise on the gift of tongues.

tongues speaker

The exposition on the gift of tongues is found in his larger work , De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione. Written around 1748 AD, this is a critical piece that should be included as a primary source for the gift of tongues discussion.

This official Catholic document on tongues is a very big surprise because it has never been noted in the tongues discussion before. This text was accidentally found while trying to find source works for Anthony of Padua. Pope Benedict XIV’s coverage shows he was one very intelligent person.

Xenoglossia, or in long form, the miraculous and instantaneous speaking in a foreign language not known beforehand, was my assumption with Benedict’s work and the documented Medieval tongues-speaking Saints. Benedict initially seemed to fit in with the xenoglossia paradigm. However, he switches positions after quoting Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas was pivotal in addressing the tongues debate that continued in the Latin Church for over a millennium.

Aquinas liked to use logical arguments that reasoned for and against the tongues as either a miracle of hearing or speech and only later does he confide which side he takes. After he narrated both arguments, he concluded that it was a miracle of speaking. This seemed to be a clear point but one which Benedict ignores.

The debate about whether the miracle was one of hearing or speaking started with Gregory Nazianzus in the fourth-century. He posited in his argument a Greek enthymeme: that is two arguments with only one possible solution. The two arguments were the miracle of hearing and the miracle of speaking. The latter argument was the obvious choice to Nazianzus. However, the Latin translator of the text, Tyrannius Rufinus, omitted a key part of the argument that did not display Nazianzus’ preference. This omission was based on the understanding of a Greek particle: αρα was it to be understood as ἄρα or ἆρα? Note the differences at the top in the first letter α in both examples. Most readers probably don’t know Greek or easily see the difference in pronunciation by the differing diacritics between the two. In most cases, this does not matter, but here, it is extremely important. In Tyrannius’ time, he did not have the benefit of diacritics, that is the markings above and below the Greek letters to advise the reader on how to pronounce the text. Tyrannius was not a native Greek speaker and chose the wrong pronunciation, which led to an incorrect translation. The misunderstanding of this particle is not hard to do. I did the same thing while first trying to translate the Greek Nazianzus text with the diacritics available.

For more information see the following article,Nazianzus’ tongues of Pentecost Paradox

This translation led Latin readers, who dominated the greater European world, to think that both arguments were given equal footing. Many thinkers like the Venerable Bede, and Michael Psellos, among others, attempted to resolve the dilemma. All the studies up until now concluded that the debate continued and was finally settled by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth-century. However, Benedict the XIV’s coverage demonstrates the arguments of hearing or speaking had continued even in the eighteenth-century – far longer than what I thought and had previously concluded.

This work quotes the actual Aquinas text which shows the preference for the miracle of speaking. Benedict does not accept Aquinas’s conclusion, rather he accepts both arguments as being true. He believed the gift of tongues can be both. It can be a miracle of speaking in foreign languages in one instance, and in other cases can be a miracle of speaking in one language with the audience hearing it in their own different native tongue.

He posits examples of scholars holding opinions on this issue. Some align to the miracle of hearing like Vincent Ferrer who spoke in Catalan and the audience heard him speak in their language, while others, like Pachomius, who could speak in Latin and Greek that he did not know beforehand.

This Pope was keen on determining a methodology on defining when an actual miraculous event of tongues occurred. These certain questions and processes must be completed before validating a claim:

  • It would have to pass through a special committee, the Postuloribus and then to a higher-ranking authority, the Rotae Auditores(1)This is the name used in his text. I don’t have any further information on this high-ranking group

  • A testimony by honourable men.

  • If a person is speaking in only one language and the hearers hear him in multiple languages then this process should be employed, “Let other witnesses be brought forward of diverse races who should identify him speaking at that time also and had heard him employ their language, clearly a German with German, Spaniard with Spanish, Gallos with Gallican, English with the English language, and so etc., And in addition everyone must be in agreement in the matter about what God’s Servant had spoken.”

  • If it is done for personal or pecuniary gain, it should be ruled out.

  • It can be counterfeited by demons and this must be ruled out.

  • Signs of conversions from unbelief or sins should accompany. These are one of the more reliable signs.

Benedict clearly states that at least one of the accounts of a Saint speaking in tongues was questionable. He is suspicious of St. Aloysio Bertrando’s account:

“God has devised that we are going to thoroughly learn the Japanese language for the purpose of divine matters. Then we finally will do with zeal the certain work of the matters of Christianity. We indeed move about now among them something like mute statues. For many speak and are stirred with this among us, in fact we are silent to those things of the native speech itself. We have become a child again in the present time in the process of learning the elements in this language.”

Benedict documents one leader, Jacob Picenius, against this being a miracle, while another, Cardinal Gottus strongly refutes Picenius, arguing that perhaps this instance wasn’t a miracle, but God can intervene at a later time. A simple reading of the text gives Picenius a strong edge here.

The treatise has no recognition of the Montanists as part of the Christian doctrine of tongues, nor does it have any recognition of tongues as a private prayer language. He does not associate ecstasy as a prerequisite condition before speaking in tongues. Ecstasy was a common expectation with the Saints, especially propagated by Teresa of Avila in the sixteenth-century.(2) see Thoughts on Ecstasty, Private Revelation and Prophecy The usage of the term Gift of Tongues within his document demonstrates that he did not see a difference between the Corinthian tongues and the tongues of Pentecost. He merged these two accounts together. Neither does he take into account any Protestant scholarship on the subject, or the tongues practices of the Camisard Huguenots that happened in France earlier in his century.(3)See The Camisards, tongues and prophecy

His work dispelled two myths. The first one related to late Medieval Catholic writers being silent on the gift of tongues. They were not. This myth has perpetuated because so few late Medieval Catholic writers have ever been translated into English.

The second myth has to do with the definition of tongues. It is not correct that the Medieval Church believed it was simply a miracle of speaking in a foreign language not known beforehand. Christine F. Cooper-Rampato used xenoglossia exclusively throughout her excellent book: The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages.(4)Christine F. Cooper-Rampato. The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages. USA: Pennsylvania State University. 2010 Wikipedia defines it is a “phenomenon in which a person is able to speak or write a language he or she could not have acquired by natural means.”(5)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenoglossy Some examples of xenoglossia by her, especially that of Vincent Ferrer, who spoke in his native Catalan language and others miraculously heard him in their own, do not fit into this definition. The Medieval Catholic definition was more complex than Rampato assumed.

For further reading:

References   [ + ]

Pope Benedict XIV on Tongues: Technical Notes

Technical notes on the translation of Pope Benedict XIV’s treatise, De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione as it relates to the gift of tongues.

Translating Pope Benedict the XIV’s gift of tongues coverage was a difficult challenge. First of all, it is because it is a late Medieval Catholic work. I am not familiar with the rites, traditions, or intellectual thoughts of this community. It was an eye-opener as the translation process proceeded to show how the Catholic writers of this era were intellectually and theologically engaged. Benedict the XIV demonstrates a rich wealth of Catholic thinkers, writers and leaders dwelling on the gift of tongues. So much so, this treatise should have always been a primary source by any academic investigating the subject.

This silence of Medieval Catholic thought has erroneously led me to believe that this genre had nothing valuable to offer in the theological realm relating to the Christian doctrine of tongues. My attempted translation of Pope Benedict the XIV exposed such a trespass in my thought.

The Protestants during this era make absolutely no mention of these great Catholic thinkers, nor do these Catholic thinkers make any reference to any Protestant thinkers in their works. The lack of cross-citation by both parties shows how deep the resentment towards each other was. I never knew how deep this was until the translation of Benedict’s treatise. This also uncovered my own trespass in this area: both my Evangelical and Jewish teachers have almost exclusively exposed me to either Protestant or German influenced academic writings.

The gift of tongues has been a controversial subject for over one-hundred years in modern Christianity. Why did this work remain so obscure and never made it into the regular discussion? That is a question that I repeatedly ask and answer throughout the Gift of Tongues Project — ancient writers such as Augustine, Nazianzus, Bede, Michael Psellos, Thomas Aquinas, John Lightfoot etc., who have made a serious contribution to the topic but rarely, if ever, are cited. This neglect is related to ignorance of historic literature, access to source materials, and now, apathy.

The lack of English translations is the most serious contributor. Only about 20% of the Church Fathers have ever been translated into English, and those that have been, are often condensed or abridged. This leads many eager students of the Bible to believe that the historic Church was silent on the subject of tongues and, therefore, irrelevant.

This ignorance was further embedded because of the problem of access. Even if a person had the ability to read Greek or Latin, the access to original materials was extremely difficult. Before the advent of Google Books and the like, there was no universal method to peruse books such as Pope Benedict’s De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione. I wouldn’t have found it, nor known about it had it not been for Google Books. In the pre-internet days, even if I knew about its existence, it likely would not have been sourced by me. This book would be too old and would require reading in a library’s rare book collection reading room and would not be available through inter-library loan. The only option would be to fly to the city which had a library that held this book and research it there; that is if, of course, permission was granted. Certain credentials, such as an M.A. or Ph.D., or faith affiliation may be required of the institution to use their materials.

These difficulties previously made it almost impossible to do a proper study on this subject.

The third factor is apathy. The Pentecostal/Charismatic appetite for historical research is very diminished. The last decade has enabled the incredible widespread availability of manuscripts and ancient books unheard of in the vestibules of history. This condition should bring about a resurgence in ancient studies within the confines of Christianity. However, there has been little or no impact. In the case of my the Gift of Tongues Project, the availability of ancient materials is wholeheartedly embraced.

The type of Latin was a challenge to translate for two reasons. I am not familiar with late Medieval Latin which has different nuances to fifth-century Latin writers such as Augustine, bishop of Hippo. Medieval Latin has progressed and has new forms to recognize. Plus Benedict the XIV extensively quoted many authors in his era. These quotations often had different style and influences. Some writers had Spanish or Portuguese as their mother tongue, and I think this crept into their Latin writing styles.

The Latin contained words that refer to classic Catholic thoughts, rites, practices and legalities that I have no familiarity with, nor could any succinct references to their meanings be found. For example, the reference to “Rotae Auditores.” The term is obvious from the context that it is some high-ranking Catholic authority, but any subsequent search for an English description has not outlined a clear meaning. So, this Latin term is left unchanged in my English translation. This is the same for “Postuloribus.” This noun is rendered every time by Benedict in the ablative. The “Postuloribus” refers to some kind of office that examines the authenticity of miracles attributed to Saints. At least, that is what it appears to mean in the text. I cannot find a clear definition for this as well. So, it is left in its ablative original state in the English translation. It should be put into a nominative form for better usage in the English tongue, but the ablative just sounds nicer.

One of the first challenges of this translation was Benedict’s word choice for the word language: idiomata instead of the traditional word, lingua. This led into an interesting foray into Medieval thought. This journey starts with the thirteenth-century English philosopher and Franciscan Friar, Roger Bacon who distinguishes between language (lingua) and cognate languages (idiomata).(1)Henry Osborn. The Medieval Mind: A History of the Development of Thought and Emotion in the Middle Ages. The Floating Press. 2013. Pg. 825 This brings us to the same century with the renowned Italian writer and poet, Dante, best known for his work, Divine Comedy. He wrote a treatise on the history of languages called, De vulgari eloquentia — an attempt to give respectability and acceptance of local languages in relation to the dominant and assimilating Latin language. He too, used ydioma (2)his way of writing idioma among other definitions to describe language after the fall of Babel. Before the fall, he used lingua.(3)My own reading from De vulgari eloquentia and also recognized by the Dictionary of Untranslateables: A Philosophical Lexicon. (A translation of Vocabulaire Européen des Philosophy) Barbara Cassin, ed. Transl. by Steven Rendall, Christian Hubert, Jeffrey Mehlman, Nathanael Stein, and Michael Syrotinski. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 2004. Pg. 549

The whole discussion in the thirteenth-century on idiomata is a simplified attempt at understanding languages and their cognates. The concepts discussed by Bacon, Dante and Medieval commentaries are abstract and hard to understand to the modern mind. It didn’t bring closure to what I thought Benedict intended.

Further contemplation was required and I speculated. Did Benedict understand idiomata in the way Dante or Bacon promoted it? Or did the Medieval Latin language simply have a preference for idiomata as the standard word for language at the time with no other baggage? Would Benedict have chosen idiomata over lingua because it meant a greater miracle? One has to take this theory to its evolutionary point. If one miraculously spoke only in the most original languages, not cognates, then that would only be a few languages spoken, and they would hardly be understood. For example, If one spoke in cognates, such as Attic, Doric, or Ionian Greek instead of the older Mycenaean Greek, which Medievalists may argue as the original source of the Greek language, then the people in that particular Greek region would understand. The greater miracle would not be in speaking a language but in the cognates.

If this was the way that Benedict understood the use of idiomata then this brings about a second difficulty. How does one translate idiomata? There is no English equivalent. I searched for how other translators translated this text in different texts and a 100% simply used language as the English equivalent. I followed the same pattern as these other translators and used language. It is the best that can be done given the limitations of the English language in this matter.

The astute reader who is comparing the Latin text to the English translation may find the translation of the Latin word “mysteria,” too amplified. In majority of cases it has been translated in my translation as, “ insights and things that transcend normal intelligence.” The standard translation would be mysteries which refer to some mysterious, esoteric knowledge that only a special inspired person or institution could possess. In the English mind it is something that a cult or secret society would practice. I don’t think this was the intention of Benedict at all. He simply believed mysteria to mean something that would be too advanced or over the heads of those who were unfamiliar with the Christian message. To dive into the realms discussing the Trinity, propitiation, substantiation or other in-house discussions would dissuade new entrants, and so these type of discussions should be reserved for mature Christians.

The infinitive as a means of indirect discourse was used extensively throughout with se but then rules were broken too where eum was used at least once instead. Other times the subjunctive was used to acheive the same purpose.

Benedict refers to books and people never heard of before. These are authors and books totally neglected in the Protestant and German writings. People like Suarez, Cardinal Baronius, Scacchus, Thyraeus, Viguer, Salmanticenses, Mathauccius, Optime Silvius, Bagatta etc., I have been able to find some original author’s books referred to by Benedict, and a first glance shows some well-thought reasonings on this topic – much better than the majority of Protestant thinking in this era.

I don’t know who these people were or their English equivalent surnames. I left their names untranslated.

The translation is based on De Lambertinis Opus De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione. Aldina: Prati. Volume III. New Edition. 1830. Pg. 547ff. Where the page was hard to read, a second, different edition was consulted, De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione. Volume 3. Rome: Nicolaus et Marcus Palearini. Academiae Liturgicae Conimbricensis Typographi. 1748. Pg. 724ff.

The 1830 edition was preferred because the print copy was easier to read. The book had transferred some older glyph types (especially the ‘s’) into modern typographic conventions.

For the actual English translation go to Pope Benedict the XIV on Tongues: the English Text.

For the actual Latin copy go to Pope Benedict the XIV on Tongues: The Latin Text

References   [ + ]

Pope Benedict XIV on the Gift of Tongues

The gift of tongues as a criterion for Sainthood as found in Pope Benedict the XIV’s treatise, De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione (around 1748 AD).

This is a carefully written and well documented work into what constitutes the gift of tongues, procedures required to investigate the phenomenon, and notable examples.

"Benedetto XIV (1675-1758)" by Carlo Vandi
“Benedetto XIV (1675-1758)” by Carlo Vandi

The following is translated from Benedict XIV. De Lambertinis Opus De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione.(1)De Lambertinis Opus De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione. Aldina: Prati. Volume III. New Edition. 1830. Pg. 547ff. Comparative work was done with De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione. Volume 3. Rome: Nicolaus et Marcus Palearini. Academiae Liturgicae Conimbricensis Typographi. 1748. Pg. 724ff

Pope Benedict the XIV’s treatise on the Gift of Tongues

Translated by Charles A. Sullivan. Translation is in beta format.


6. The Gift of the diversity of languages is inferior to the Gift of prophecy according to the writing of Apostle I Corinthians 14:5 Greater is he who prophesies than the one who speaks in languages. Man cannot achieve through this Grace that he can speak foreign languages elegantly or lavishly at all. So this very one who speaks can be understood by others and understand others is only very close to a natural expression. That is to say, the Gift is being given for the benefit of others clearly for the purpose of enlarging the cultivation of the faith. It is not necessary for such a matter that the speaker should skillfully speak a refined type of languages, but that it is sufficient so that he can also become acquainted with the common language of whatever nation. It is deduced from Acts 2:2ff that the bestowed Grace of kinds of languages was with the holy Apostles. Whereby St. Luke wrote in this way:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded in mind, because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these, that speak, Galileans? And how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians: we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all astonished, and wondered, saying one to another: What meaneth this?(2)Douay-Rheims Bible

Though he was going to be pleased by these men that they were to instruct the world in the faith of Christ with divine wisdom — of such worship, way of life and the craft of writing was to be simple, lest a person would claim some human command of a language or authority to such a great work for himself. Hence, it is to be brought up, that the Grace of diverse tongues is not bestowed for the purpose that one who possesses the gift is going to elegantly or richly speak foreign languages. Whereby the Apostle says, I Corinthians 1:21, “it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save them that believe,”(3)Douay-Rheims and afterwards, verse, 27 “But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, etc. . . That no flesh should glory in his sight.”(4)Douay-Rheims, then 2:1, “when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom.”(5)Douay-Rheims along with 2:4, “my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom.”(6)Douay-Rheims

7. How then and what way was it done that the Apostles who were speaking were being understood by everyone is debated between the important teachers of the Church.(7)Doctores For this Grace could be discussed in these two ways: one way was from the perspective of those hearing, the other way from those speaking. For it was either a singular utterance of words alone or in a singular language with the Apostles preachings, and at the same had been understood by every man who was present of diverse languages, or, the type and familiarity of the diversity of languages had been poured into the Apostles themselves and having been given to them the ability to speak all these; not simultaneously with the form of a singular sound but having been received by succession and according to the occasion.

St. Thomas weighs this question in 2. 2. quast. 176. ar. 1. where he teaches that it was necessary that the Gift of languages was to be given to the Apostles by God. When they were sent out for the purpose of teaching others and that they were poor people, consequently for such a situation it would have been difficult to find anyone who could faithfully interpret his words or other speakers words explained by them. Then in the opposite to this thought that God could have done — those who are speaking in only one language were understood by everyone, and so they did not have to have the skill for the sake of preaching in all languages. Aquinas then responded:

“Reply to Objection 2. Although either was possible, namely that, while speaking in one tongue they should be understood by all, or that they should speak in all tongues, it was more fitting that they should speak in all tongues, because this pertained to the perfection of their knowledge, whereby they were able not only to speak, but also to understand what was said by others. Whereas if their one language were intelligible to all, this would either have been due to the knowledge of those who understood their speech, or it would have amounted to an illusion, since a man’s words would have had a different sound in another’s ears, from that with which they were uttered. Hence, a gloss says on Acts 2:6 that “it was a greater miracle that they should speak all kinds of tongues”; and Paul says (1 Corinthians 14:18): “I thank my God I speak with all your tongues.”(8)Question 176. The grace of tongues as found in The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province Online Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3176.htm(9)Benedict’s reference is word-for-word with the contemporary edition used for studying Aquinas.

8. This reference of St. Paul makes for the explanation of St. Thomas, I Corinthians 14:18, “I thank God that I speak in languages more than all of you.” The reason then happens by it having been imparted at the same time, because this gift has not only become necessary in order that the hearers could understand the Apostles speaking but also that other unbelievers who are speaking with one another can be understood by the Apostles. They could answer their questions and solve difficult things which have been proposed.

They copiously join with the discourse of this Doctor:

  • Suarez, tom. 1. de Gratia, prolegom. 3. cap. 5. a num. 47 usque ad n. 55. Scacchus de not. Et sign. Sanctit. Sect. 8. cap. 6.
  • Viguer loco supra cit. cap. 9. vers. 8.
  • Salmanticenses in cursu Theol. Tom. 3. in arbore praedicamentali // 17. n. 168. et seqq.
  • Thyraeus de apparitione vocali lib. 2. cap. 14. They admit all can be possible and perhaps can even be done that according to the various conditions of situations at any time, the Apostles speak in one mode of language to everyone, although they were being understood as diverse languages by the hearers.
  • Mathauccius follows such things in pract. Theologo-Canon. Ad causas Beatificat. Et Canoniz. tit. 3 cap. 3. ar. 2. // 5. a.n. 55. usque ad 62
  • Optime Silvius about 2. 2 D. Thomae qu. 176. ar. 1. “It is undeniable, in fact when it was about to happen at some point, that while one person was speaking in one language, they were being understood as diverse and foreign languages by the hearers, for example when Peter preached in a raised voice to the multitude mixed together.(10)miscellaneam . . . But we teach, the Apostles are not just with this mode and likewise with the gathering of the Saints as well — actually in fact we rather suppose this ought to be reckoned: these very ones were speaking in diverse languages, as they were every kind, to whom it was necessary to speak them. (11)Benedict lifted this quote form Silvius’ work. The original can be found in the book S. Theologiæ Doctoris in Academia Duacena

9. Christ the Lord without doubt had the most perfect knowledge of every language, but it was not required that he was to speak in all the languages since He intended to preach to one race alone, namely the Jews. Whereby D. Thomas noted loc. cit. ad tertium, and Thomas Bozius carefully weighed de signis Ecclesiae lib. 6. sign. 22. cap. 5. n. 1. Silvius loc. cit. expands on D. Thomas and says, it is very likely Christ the Lord did not use another language publicly and before an audience than that which was familiar to the people of Judaea. Since this very one came Himself for the intent of preaching exclusively to these, but at the same time he used various languages privately on the occasion that so required. He spoke to the Gentiles while in Egypt: that he has been found also speaking to an audience that had gathered from the diverse nations, John ch. 12 even as the Tribune speaks and cohort of Roman soldiers, next to the Chief Priests, Magistrates of the temple, and Elders. Luke. 22 Although He may have used one language, without doubt Syriac, at that time familiar to the Hebrews so that it would have been understood by everyone present, although not everyone were skilled in the Syriac language. On the other hand, it had been given not only to the Apostles, but in addition to many others also the Gift of kinds of languages had been freely given by God for the benefit and building up of the faithful.

There are noted examples collected by Bagatta in oper. de admirandis orbis Christiani tom. 2. pag. 153. We will submit some in this place from which it can be distinguished as the first rather than the second way that the Grace has been bestowed by God to some of his servants of whom are being compelled to speak.

In the Life of St. Sophiae, sive Cadoci Episcopi Beneventani et Martyris edited by Bollandus, die 24, Januarii tom. 2. cap. 1. Pag. 604. it reads, “Cadocus finally reaches Jerusalem, visits the local holy places in a place which the Lord united the language of the nations. Inspired by these things, he began to speak in diverse languages”. In the life of St. Teliai Episcopi Landavensis among the same Bollandus, ad diem 9. Februarii cap. 2. num. 8 pag. 309. tom. 2. these are considered: “seeing that the love of Divine words burning in their hearts, it was deeply lacking with their language, the solitude and want was impressed upon him in a wonderful way. So that because he was satisfied by the people’s prayers being made and their dedication, he began to explain the Scriptures and each one standing near heard him speaking their own language.” And the same gift bestowed upon his companions, clearly with the Saints – David and Paternus, the same author bears witness loc. Cit.“then David and Paternus arose and they preached to the people, and meanwhile everyone perfectly comprehended them in their own language.”

In the Passione SS. Viginti Martyrum Laurae S. Sabae apud Bollandianos ad diem 20. Martii cap. 7. n. 73. pag. 177. It is related how one among them desirous of learning the Greek language so that he could devote himself to reading aloud of the Scriptures. He could in no way acquire the means to learn it: “However, fallen asleep, he was visited by one of the holy Fathers Anastasio Protodiacono, of whom we recall above, had been a familiar acquaintance with this Father, and asked about the source of sorrow. Thereupon he explained his slowness in learning by which the Holy one smiles, Open the mouth, he says, increase whatever language to me. And he had something belonging to him, brings and brushes a new cloth, and cleans it, when the fat and muddy thickness once had been cleaned, it disappeared. Presbyter who was sleeping woke up at once. Moreover, he was emboldened, because from that great day he could articulate fluent speech in that language with the ability to understand, to the extent of which having been set free whether in the art of reading, or added in the development of yielding instantly an elegant language, so that this very one was in astonishment himself. He was stupefied about his cure in respect to the grace of God and also the holy ones.”

In the chronicles about the life of St. Pachomius and Theodori, ad diem 14. Maji. among a citation by the Bollandists, cap. 3. It records St. Pachomius wanting to correct a certain Roman man, that used Latin and Greek speech, which himself was unfamiliar with, only experienced in the Egyptian language. For this reason he poured out prayers for three hours to God, in order that he could be of assistance to his Brother. A paper had been brought down from heaven that was inscribed, which he read. He then thoroughly learned the languages of all the nations. Then he immediately came to the Brother, the author adds, that he began to use such in Latin indeed and in the Greek language without any error within which the brother was astonished.

This testimony is being offered of St. Vincent Ferrer by St. Antonio 3. part. Sum. Histor. Tit. 23. capt. 8 //. 4. “Moreover, he was an act of astonishment with this and with the Apostolic Grace that the preaching in the Catalan language was being understood yet by other peoples who did not know that language.” Henricus Spondanus agrees, in continuat. Annal. Car. Baronii ad an. 1403. num. 7. “in fact this is a person exhibiting of the entire evangelical preachings from the times of the Apostles because this public address was understood in the native and common speech of Catalan by foreign races who had no knowledge, for they heard not only with respect to close regional ones, but also the most remote ones too, from teachers to those unlearned, nobility to those of the lowest ranks. For he gave a speech in so great a length while no one weakened with weariness.”

And so the Rotae Auditories had spoken in the matter of the case of Francis Xavier, ad tit. de dono linguarum etc.“Xavier became evident with the gift of languages, and certainly in the languages of diverse races which he was not acquainted with. When he addressed them for the sake of the Gospel, he was speaking elegantly and so unencumbered, as if he that had been and educated in that condition. He is not rarely affected, so that while preaching to the men of diverse nations, each one heard him speaking his own language.” Thomas Bozius reports this very thing of St. Aloysio Bertrando, loc. Cit. n. 3.

Among the letters of S. Francis Xavier (editas a P. Horatio Tursellino post vitam ejusdem Sancti) epist. 5. lib. 3. pag. 105. he thus speaks personally of the same thing, “God grant that we may acquire such a thing first as the Japanese language in order to explain the divine doctrine. Then we finally will do with zeal the certain work of the matters of Christianity. We indeed move about now among them something like mute statues. For these people are all talking and occupied about us, in fact we are silent, unaccustomed to their native speech. We have become a child again in the present time in the process of learning the elements in this language.” Jacobus Piceninus (12)Giacomo Picenino draws from these words that he would not have been provided with the gift of languages. But Cardinal Gotti vigorously refutes him. tom. 1. de vera Ecclesia cap. 2 // 4. n. 44. While the Saint might not have had the mastery of languages at one moment, and could be distinguished with the gift of languages by God in another one, as it happened with the Apostles, to whom had been bestowed of the divine gift of languages, and not immediately after the start of their calling, but when the Holy Spirit descended upon them.”

10. There seems to be no doubting that it can be, with God allowing, similar things done by a demon. For in fact it can, while he stirs the functions of the voice, so to move it, so that he could have unrolled such a tongue, so then he speaks. For he can also form words from the air diverse kinds that conform to the ears of those hearing which the one doing the speaking does not reveal.

Wherefore St. Hieronymus recalls in In the Life of St. Hilarion that he had cured someone in a melancholic state who was previously speaking Syriac words, by ejecting the demon. And it is common among the signs of a demon to someone possessed, that there is certainly nothing more than if some woman, or peasant and the untaught should contend about theological mysteries, who, before one was possessed, he was ignorant, then he was speaking either Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German or another kind of exotic language. Whereby Gaspar a Rejes observes in Elysio jucundar. quaest. campo quaest. 27. ar. 4. therefore, if a discussion occurs in the sacred congregation on the rites about this Grace with respect to the endowment of the gift of kinds of languages having been freely given wherein an occasion to discuss the matter of a certain Servant of God, that the matter be a question of his Beatification and Canonization, that it should be claimed about him by the Postuloribus that they would have declared the gift of languages, that is to be divinely skillful in many languages. It is necessary that he should be demonstrated with languages of which he has been inspired by the testimony of honourable men, and from the time the skill appeared and have used without hindrance with them, when the opportunity presented him.

As Matthaecius advises in pract. Theologo-Canon. Ad causas Beatificat. Et Canonizat. Tit. 3. cap. 3. ar. 2. //. 5. num. 68. and the Rotae Auditores describe in detail in the case cited in the report of St. Francis Xavier tit. De dono linguarum. If it certainly is being claimed by the Postuloribus, the Servant of God speaks only one language. It is necessary the one who hears, so let the witnesses be brought forward who argue that this is true, that they had heard him speaking their own language, let us suppose Latin, or Italian, etc. Let other witnesses be brought forward of diverse races, who should identify him speaking at that time also and had heard him employ their language, clearly a German with German, Spaniard with Spanish, Gallos with Gallican, English with the English language, and so etc., And in addition everyone must be in agreement in the matter about what God’s Servant had spoken, according to the things which are being considered by the Auditores Rotae loc. cit in addition one ought to observe these things or whether some kind of foolishness had imperceptibly grown in the use of these languages, for example, if he should have done it for the mass appeal of the multitudes, or the gold of the most distinguished persons, whether for the purpose for obtaining monies, or glories, or the speaker would have spoken empty things. For these factors can reveal that the use of diverse languages has not been produced by God. Because if the speaker has spoken the great things of God, if he had profited with languages, that they cause conversion from sins, or unbelievers, these are the most reliable signs that he has been granted with the gift of languages by God, and this ought to be the biggest reason of this matter in the case of Beatification and Canonization. The virtue in the heroic action wherein the evidences having been especially brought forward, thus Matta observes:
de Canoniz. SS. Part. 3. cap. 4. n. 18. et 19 Mathaeuccius loc. cit. num. 68. Scacchus de Notis, et sign. sanctit. sect. 8. cap. 6. pag. 649.

11. The last grace having been freely given of which the Apostle speaks is Interpretation of Speeches(13)sermonum not sermonem as found in I Corinthians 14:9 which can be explained in two ways. One is that the Interpretation of a Speech is being conveyed for the significance of the words. The other is that it can be understanding about the words which have been selected with insights and things that transcend normal intelligence.ref]mysteriis[/ref] While the first way to interpret a speech is to set forth one word of a distinct language through to the words of another language, but to teach the things that transcend normal intelligence(14)mysteria which lie hidden in the words, and are often not being understood by them who are not unfamiliar with the significance of the words. Suarez teaches as well tom. 1. de Gratia, prolegom. 3. cap. 5. num. 55. et seqq. To the first way, the translation of the seventy interpreters(15)Septuaginta ought to be considered, who under Ptolemy Philadelphus(16)Ptolemy II Philadelphus together with the greater public opinion, not from the disordered lacunae(17)manuscripts that have sections or pieces missing of a small brook, or from the well known and popular books: Chaldean, Syrian and from the Samaritan codices, but they constructed their version from the purest Hebrew fountains. This is how Jean Morin prevailed with solid arguments against Rabbi Azarium. Whether they had made this version, and the same number had been shut-up in cells just as Justin, Irenaeus, and Cyril of Jerusalem reckoned, or as St. Hilarion considered more likely — gathered in a certain public place in their own great basilica having been removed from every disturbance and noise.

They consider about a second way which they reason about the Translations(18)Interpretibus of the holy Saints of the Apostles. For Peter had used Mark as a translator, and Paul had Titus as a translator, of whom, II Corinthians 2:12 it says, “And when I was come to Troas for the gospel of Christ and a door was opened unto me in the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus.”(19)English translation from Douay-Rheims Bible Accordingly, the translators at hand sustained the work by their Apostles, and so Titus with Paul, or when, with these very ones are speaking in some other nationality, for example to the Romans, there would have been others in the audience who would not have known a Latin word. Then it was apparent that the role of translators is needed at that moment, or when the Apostles speaks very difficult things in comprehension that a translator existed at that moment to explain it. As Cardinal Baronius concluded after a long discussion in annal. Ad an. 45. n. 37.

12. Suarez follows with Cardinal Baronius loc. cit. n. 61. et seqq. but Estius as found in comment. ad cap. 2. epist. 2. ad Corinth. It is believed that it cannot be learned how the office of the Translator practised by Titus relating to ways to speak from one to the other and how Paul could have been afflicted by so great a sorrow when Titus did not come to Troas — so his work was not to be in the way which had been arranged. For it is said that Paul then preached in the regions of Asia, Achaia, and Macedonia in which the Greek language was in common use. Moreover, Paul equalled knowledge of languages to a divine miracle;(20)alternative translation: Paul attained knowledge of languages by a divine miracle that he could utter equally speak the Greek and Hebrew languages with ease, and for this reason that it was unlikely him who was perhaps in need of a Translator, to such a degree that his soul would have been troubled that having had left Troas, he would have departed to a place in Macedonia to search for his interpreter. He added, the Apostles preaching among the multitude, that their speech had adapted to the comprehension of the crowd, which they delivered it in vast and lengthy amounts on the faith, and the uncommon things that transcend normal intelligence were held back. Whereby the same Apostle in I Corinthians 2:6 says, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect.”(21)Douay-Rheims and 3:1 “could not speak to you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal. As unto little ones in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not meat: for you were not able as yet.”(22)Douay-Rheims Estius also draws from the same that Paul did not have a need for an explanation of the uncommon things that transcend normal intelligence and of the more obscure matters by Titus. And he concluded that the spirit of Paul did not have rest when he did not meet Titus because he had sent him to Corinth. This was because he was to bring a warning or they improved already by themselves. Cornelius follows with respect to Lapide(23)Cornelius A. Lapide II Corinthians chapter 2 where he has this: “There was also another reason why Paul would have proceeded from Troas into Macedonia for intention of meeting with Titus. In fact with regards to Titus who was dispatched to Corinth, he was eager to know the state of the Corinthians. He had promised Corinth before that he would return. From which chapter 7, verse 6,(24)II Corinthians 7:6 it says that he had been comforted by the coming of Titus relating among the Corinthians the mourning and the zeal for Paul. On the other hand, Titus appears to report to Paul that it is not yet the right time for preparing to return to Corinth. Consequently, Paul delayed his journey to Corinth, and he sent to them in advance a letter which outlined the right way to them and corrected the errors of the Corinthians.” Moreover, this should be sufficient for discussion. In fact in this matter that pertains to the reasons for the Beatification and Canonization, it appears to be quite difficult for me that his occasion presents the opportunity to discuss about this Grace – the Interpretation of Speeches. In fact it can happen, and often does happen, that having the obscure mysterious things of the Scriptures being clearly communicated were to be separate from human study by any servant of God, that is not to the Grace of Interpretations of Speeches but to the knowledge which has infused within, of which will pertain to the above.

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For further information:

  • You can also use the edited and amplified version redacted by AB Emm. De Azevedo called, Doctrina de Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum (amplified). Although this copy is visually easier to read, it omits a fair amount of the original, assuming the reader can fill in the blanks where necessary.

  • The above Latin was digitized from an 1830 edition. The typography of that work was easy and clear to read. It used modern fonts, whereas the older editions have different ligatures and font styles. If you need to verify with an older edition, this can be found at Google Book’s website, Doctrina de Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum (older edition)


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