Fathers of the Church

Epistle VIII: to Januarius, Bishop

Description

This epistle is from Book IV of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory asks Januarius to ensure that the building of a new monastery is no longer delayed by the heiress of the man who wished it to be founded.

Provenance

St. Gregory (b. 540 in Rome) was elected pope at the age of 50, serving from 590 to 604. In 14 years he accomplished much for the Church. England owes her conversion to him. At a period when the invasion of the barbarian Lombards created a new situation in Europe, he played a great part in winning them for Christ. At the same time, he watched equally over the holiness of the clergy and the maintenance of Church discipline, the temporal interests of his people of Rome and the spiritual interests of all Christendom. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade the taking of money for many services, and emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and victims of plague and famine. Gregory also reformed the liturgy, and it still contains several of his most beautiful prayers. The name "Gregorian chant" recalls this great Pope's work in the development of the Church's music. His commentaries on Holy Scripture exercised a considerable influence on Christian thought in the Middle Ages. Following his death in 604, his numerous epistles, including the following letter, were compiled into the Papal Register of Letters.

by Gregory the Great in 590-604 | translated by James Barmby, D.d

Gregory to Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari).

We think indeed that thy position may in itself be enough to compel thee to be instant in the fulfilment of pious duties. But, lest remissness of any kind should intervene to abate thy zeal, we have thought it right to exhort thee especially with regard to them. Now it has come to our knowledge that your Stephen, when departing this life, by his last will and testament directed a monastery to be founded. But it is said that his desire is so far unaccomplished owing to the delay of the honourable lady Theodosia, his heiress. Wherefore we exhort thy Fraternity to pay the utmost attention to this matter, and admonish the above-named lady, to the end that within a year's space she may establish a monastery as has been directed, and construct everything without dispute according to the will of the departed. But if she should put off the completion of the design out of negligence or artfulness (as, for instance, if she is unable to found it in the place that had been appointed, and it is thought fit that it be placed elsewhere, and the matter is neglected through the intervening delay), then we desire that it be built by the diligence of thy Fraternity, and that, all things being set in order, the effects and revenues that have been left be appropriated by thee to this venerable place. For so thou wilt both escape condemnation for remissness before the awful Judge, and, in accordance with our most religious laws, wilt be accomplishing with episcopal zeal the pious wishes of the departed, which had been disregarded.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/XII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.