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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XII: to Montana and Thomas

Description

This epistle is from Book VI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory formally frees both Montana and Thomas, makes them Roman citizens, and gives each of them a sum of money to pursue monastic or other lives.

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 Montana, &c.

Since our Redeemer, the Maker of every creature, vouchsafed to assume human flesh for this end, that, the chain of slavery wherewith we were held being broken by the grace of His Divinity, He might restore us to pristine liberty, it is a salutary deed if men whom nature originally produced free, and whom the law of nations has subjected to the yoke of slavery, be restored by the benefit of manumission to the liberty in which they were born. And so, moved by loving-kindness and by consideration of this case, we make you, Montana and Thomas, servants of the holy Roman Church which with the help of God we serve, free from this day, and Roman citizens, and we release to you all your private property.

And, inasmuch as thou, Montana, declarest that thou hast applied thy mind to monastic profession, we therefore this day give and grant to thee two unciae, which the presbyter Gaudiosus by the disposition of his last will is known to have left to thee in the way of institution, provided that all go in all respects to the advantage of the monastery of Saint Laurence, over which the abbess Constantina presides, and in which by the mercy of God thou art about to make profession. But, if it should appear that thou hast in any way concealed any part of the property left by the above-written Gaudiosus, the whole of this must undoubtedly be transferred to the possession of our Church.

Moreover to thee, Thomas above-written, whom for enhancement of thy freedom we desire also to serve among the notaries, we in like manner this day give and grant by this writ of manumission the five unciae which the aforesaid presbyter Gaudiosus by his last will left to thee under the title of inheritance, together with the dowry which he had bestowed upon thy mother; to wit with this annexed law and condition, that, in case of thy dying without legitimate children, that is children born in lawful wedlock, all that we have granted thee shall revert without any diminution to the possession of the holy Roman Church. But, if thou shouldest have children both in wedlock, as we have said, and recognized by the law, and shouldest leave them surviving thee, then we appoint thee to remain master of this same property without any condition, and give thee full power to make a will with respect to it. These things, then, which we have appointed and granted by this charter of manumission, know ye that we and our successors will observe without any demur. For the rule of justice and reason suggests that one who desires his own orders to be observed by his successors should undoubtedly keep to the will and ordinances Of his predecessor. This writ of manumission we have dictated to the notary Paterius to be put in writing, and for the fullest security have subscribed it with our own hand, together with three chief presbyters and three deacons, and have delivered it to you.

Done in the city of Rome.

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.