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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XLVI: to Felix, Bishop of Pisaurum (Pesaro)

Description

This epistle is from Book VI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. In it Gregory corrects Felix for celebrating public masses at a monastery whose consecration should have taken place without them.

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 Felix, Bishop, &c.

We wonder at your Fraternity, that, disregarding the tenor of the precept given you by our predecessor of holy memory, you, should consecrate the monastery constructed by John, the bearer of these presents, otherwise than as ancient use demands. For, while it is ordered among other things in the said precept that you should dedicate the place itself without a public mass, still, as we have heard. your chair has been placed there, and the sacred solemnities of mass are there publicly celebrated. If this is true, we hereby exhort you that, putting aside all excuse, you cause your chair to be altogether removed thence, and that henceforth you perform no public masses there. But, as both custom and the tenor of the precept direct, if they should wish mass to be celebrated for them there, let a presbyter be appointed by thee for the purpose.

Further, we desire that with the favour of God there shall always remain a congregation of servants of God in the same monastery, as the aforesaid John has requested, and as is now the case. As to the cup also which he informs me has been taken away by your Fraternity, if it be so, make haste to restore it. These things, then, let your Holiness so study to fulfil that the aforesaid bearer may have no need to resort to us again on the same account.

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.