Fathers of the Church

Epistle I: to Peter, Bishop

Description

This epistle is from Book VIII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory is mainly concerned with those who have fallen away to the worship of idols, and he tells Peter to quickly bring them back to the fold.

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 Peter, Bishop of Corsica.

On receiving the letters of your Fraternity we returned great thanks to Almighty God, that you had been so good as to refresh us with the news of the gathering in of many souls. And accordingly let your Fraternity strive anxiously to bring to perfection, with the help of the Lord, the work which you have begun. And with regard to those who have once been faithful, but from negligence or under constraint have returned to the worship of idols, make haste to bring them back to the faith, imposing on them a penance of a few days, that they may bewail their guilt, and keep to that to which they return, God helping them, the more firmly as they shall have perfectly deplored that from which they now depart; and with regard to those who have not yet been baptized, let thy Fraternity make haste, by admonishing, by beseeching, by alarming them about the coming judgment, and also by giving reasons why they should not worship stocks and stones, to gather them in to Almighty God; that so, at His advent, when the strict day of judgment comes, thy Holiness may be found in the number of the Saints. For what more profitable work or more lofty canst thou be engaged in than taking thought for the quickening and gathering together of souls and bringing in immortal gain to thy Lord, Who has given to thee the post of preaching?

Further, we send thy Fraternity fifty solidi for procuring vestments for those who are to be baptized; and we have also caused to be given to the presbyter of the Church situated in Mount Negeugnus the possession which thy Fraternity has asked for, so that its value may be deducted from the money that he had been accustomed to receive.

Further, your Fraternity has asked to be allowed to make for yourself an episcopal residence in the church that is not far from the same mountain; which proposal I most gladly accede to, since the nearer you are, the more will you be able to do good to the souls that are there.

In consideration of your Holiness's intercessions for him we have made the bearer of these presents an acolyte, and have sent him back to attend upon you, in order that, if he should be of still more service in winning souls, he may be in a position to be still further advanced.

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.