Fathers of the Church

Epistle LVI: to Stephen, Abbot

Description

This epistle is from Book VI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Having heard good things from Augustine (of Canterbury), Augustine commends Stephen for the well-being of his monastery, and warns him to always be vigilant against evil.

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 Stephen, &c.

The account given us by Augustine, servant of God, the bearer of these presents, has made us joyful, in that he has told us that your Love is vigilant as you ought to be; and he further affirms that the presbyters and deacons and the whole congregation live in unanimity and concord. And, since the goodness of presidents is the salutary rule of their subjects, we implore Almighty God to enkindle thee always in good works by the grace of His loving-kindness, and to keep those who are committed to thee from all temptation of diabolical deceit, and grant to them to live with thee in charity and in the manner of life that pleases Him.

But, since the enemy of the human race never rests from plotting against our doings, so as to deceive in some part souls that are serving God, therefore, most beloved son, we exhort thee to exercise vigilantly thy anxious care, and so to keep those who are committed to thee by prayer and heedfulness that the prowling wolf may find no opportunity for tearing the flock: to the end that, when thou shall have rendered to our God unharmed those of whom thou hast undertaken the charge, He may both of His grace repay thee with rewards for thy labour and multiply in thee longings for eternal life.

We have received the spoons and plates which thou hast sent us, and we thank thy Charity, because thou hast shewn how thou lovest the poor in having sent for their use such things as they need.

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.