Fathers of the Church
Epistle XLIX: to Adeodatus, Bishop
by Gregory the Great in 590-604 | translated by James Barmby, D.d
Gregory to Adeodatus, Primate bishop of the province of Numidia.
After what manner the charity of affection has bound your Fraternity to usward the tenour of your letters has evidently shewn; and they bare afforded us great matter of rejoicing, in that we have found them to be composed in a spirit of loving-kindness, and to glow with affection well- pleasing to God. As, then, we have briefly said, the epistle which you have addressed to us has so laid open your mind that its author might be supposed not to be absent from us at all. For, indeed, persons are not to be accounted absent whose feelings are not at variance with mutual charity. And though, as you say in your letter, neither your strength nor your age allow you to come to us, that we might be gratified by the bodily presence of your Fraternity, yet, seeing that we are one with you and you with us in feeling, we are entirely present one to the other, while we see each other in a mind made one through love. Furthermore, greeting your Fraternity with the suitable affection of charity, we exhort you that you study with all your heart so to acquit yourself wisely in the office of primacy which under God you hold, that it may both profit your soul to have attained to this rank, and that you may stand out as a good example for imitation to others in the future.
Be, then, especially careful with regard to ordination; and by no means admit any to aspire to sacred orders but such as are somewhat advanced in age and pure in deeds, lest perchance they cease for ever to be what they immaturely haste to be. For you must first examine the life and manners of those who are to be placed in any sacred order; and, that you may be able to admit such as are worthy to this office, let not the influence or the entreaty of any persons whatever inveigle you. But before all things it behoves you to be cautious that no venality may have place in ordination, lest (which God forbid) the greater danger hang over both the ordained and the ordainers. If ever, then, there is need for such things to be taken in hand, call grave and experienced men into your counsels, and consider the matter in common deliberation with them. And before all others it is fit that you should in all cases call in Columbus our brother and fellow- bishop. For we believe that, if you shall have done what is to be done with his advice, no one will find anything in any way to find fault with in you; and know ye that it will be as acceptable to us as if it had been done with our advice; inasmuch as his life and manners have in all respects so approved themselves to us that it is clearly apparent to all that what is done with his consent will be darkened by no blot of faultiness. But the bearer of these presents, Victorians, deacon of our fellow-bishop above- named, has been such a herald of your merits as exceedingly to refresh our spirits With regard to your behaviour. And we pray the Almighty Lord to cause the good that has been reported of you to shine forth more fully in operation as well-pleasing to Him. When, therefore, the council which you are taking measures to assemble has, with the succor of God, been brought to a conclusion, rejoice us by telling of its unity and concord, and give us information on all points.
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.