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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXIII: to Castorius, Notary

Description

This epistle is from Book V of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory urges Castorius to ensure that the people of Ravenna quickly elect a worthy bishop.

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 Castorius, &c.

Our hearing of the death of our brother and fellow-bishop John has greatly saddened us especially as that city at this time has lost the solace of pastoral care. Wherefore, since very many advantages to the Church itself demand that, under the guidance of Christ, a priest should be ordained without delay, we accordingly charge thy Experience to exhort the clergy and people with all urgency that they delay not to elect for themselves a priest to be consecrated. This however, and before all things, we desire thee to press upon them, that in the general cause they regard not their own private interests. Let there be no venality, then, in this election, lest, while they covet rewards, they lose their discrimination of choice and think that man worthy for this office who may have pleased them, not by his merits, but by his gifts. For let them especially and absolutely know this, that he is not only unworthy of the priesthood, but will also certainly become further culpable, whosoever may presume to make merchandise of the gift of God by thinking to purchase it for a price. Wherefore let not him that is liberal in bribes, but him that is worthy for his merits, be chosen. For the penalty will affect both the elected and the electors, if they attempt with sacrilegious mind to violate the purity of the priesthood. Moreover, whether one or two may have been elected, by all means warn five of the senior presbyters and five of the leading people to come to us together. But with respect to the clergy, if, besides those who determine to come, you are of opinion that the presence of any others is necessary, send them to us without delay, that there may be no plea of excuse, nor any delay ensue, in setting the Church in order.

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.