Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Patricius, Bishop of Prusa, in Bithynia, Martyr
From his authentic acts in Ruinart. In the Chronicon of George Hamartolus, of which a MS. copy is extant in the Coislinian library at S. Germain-des-Prez in Paris, (Cod. 305,) is inserted fol. 200. Patricii Episcopi Prusæ responsio ad Judicem. See the acts of this holy martyr most accurately given by Mazochio, with five learned disquisitions on his see, age, &c., in the commentary which he published in Marmor Neapolitanum, seu Vetus Kalendarium SS. Neapolit. Ecclesiæ, t. 2, p. 301, ad 19 Maii.
THERE were anciently in Bithynia, three cities known by the name of Prusa; that whereof St. Patricius was bishop, was famous for its hot baths, near which stood a temple, wherein sacrifices were offered to Esculapius and to Health: the latter being adored as a goddess by the Romans, had a temple in Rome itself, as is mentioned by Livy.1 His acts give the following account of his martyrdom. Julius, proconsul of Bithynia, being at Prusa, after bathing in the hot baths and sacrificing to Esculapius and Health, found himself fresh, vigorous, and in good health, for which he imagined himself indebted to those divinities. With a view, therefore, to make a grateful return to these imaginary deities, he was determined to oblige Patricius to offer sacrifice to them. Wherefore, being seated on his tribunal, and having caused Patricius to be brought before him, he said to him: You, who being led away by silly tales, are weak enough to invoke Christ, deny if you can the power of our gods, and their providential care over us, in granting us these mineral waters, endued by them with salutary virtues. I therefore insist on your sacrificing to Esculapius, as you hope to avoid being severely tormented for your non-compliance. Patricius.How many wicked things are contained in the few words you have been uttering! Proconsul.What wickedness can you discover in my discourse, who have advanced nothing in it but what is plain matter of fact? Are not the daily cures, wrought by these waters, clear and manifest? Dont we see and experience them? Patricius did not deny the salutary virtues of the waters, nor the cures wrought by them upon human bodies, but endeavoured to convince the governor, and a numerous audience, that these waters, and all other things, had received their being and perfections from the one only true God, and his Son Jesus Christ.2 And while he was endeavouring to account for their heat and ebullition, from secondary causes, he was interrupted by the proconsuls crying out: You pretend then that Christ made these waters, and gave them their virtue? Patricius.Yes; without all doubt he did. Proconsul.If I throw you into these waters to punish you for your contempt of the gods, do you imagine your Christ, whom you suppose the maker of them, will preserve your life in the midst of them? Patricius.I do not contemn your gods, for no one can contemn what does not exist: I would have you convinced that Jesus Christ can preserve my life, when I am thrown into these waters, as easily as he can permit them to take it away: and that whatever relates to me, or is to befal me, is perfectly known to him, as he is present every where; for not a bird falls to the ground, nor a hair from our heads, but by his good will and pleasure. This I would have all look upon as an oracle of truth itself; and that an eternal punishment in hell awaits all such as, like you, adore idols. These words so enraged the proconsul, that he commanded the holy bishop to be immediately stripped and cast into the scalding water. While they were throwing him in, he prayed thus: Lord Jesus Christ, assist thy servant. Several of the guards were scalded by the dashing of the water. But it had no such effect upon the martyr, who, like the three children in the Babylonian furnace, continued in it a considerable time without hurt, being affected no more by it than if it had been an agreeable temperate bath. The enraged proconsul ordered him thereupon to be taken out and beheaded. The martyr, having recommended his soul to God by a short prayer, knelt down, and had his head struck off pursuant to the sentence. The faithful who were present at the execution carried off his body, and gave it a decent interment near the high road. His martyrdom happened on the 19th of May. Thus his acts. It does not appear in what persecution he suffered. He is commemorated in the Greek Menæa on the 19th of May; in the Menology published by Canisius on the 28th of April and on the 19th of May, and in the Roman Martyrology on the 28th of April, probably the day of the translation of his relics. Both the Greek and Roman calendars join SS. Acacius, Menander, and Polyænus, who were beheaded with him for the faith. Le Quien3 reckons St. Alexander, who is honoured with the title of bishop of Prusa, and martyr on the 10th of June, in the Greek Menæa, the first bishop of that city whose name has reached us, and St. Patricius the second, George, who was present in the council of Nice, the third, and St. Timothy the fourth, who was crowned with martyrdom under Julian the Apostate, according to the several Greek calendars both in their Menæa, Menologies, and Synaxeries, which mention him on the 10th of June. Some name Constantinople as the chief place of his veneration. Perhaps he suffered in that city: at least his relics were preserved there in a famous church which bore his name: on which see Du Cange.4
Note 2. The discourse may be seen at length in his acts given in Ruinart, in which he ascribes the heat of these and the like waters to subterraneous fires: and the martyr takes occasion from thence to speak of hell and its never-ending torments. Some philosophers, both ancient and modern, imagine a central fire in the bowels of the earth: others more probably ascribe all subterraneous heat and fire to fermenting or inflammable materials, which are found almost every where in some degree, especially in great depths, in the earth. [back]