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Fathers of the Church

Epistle LVIII: to Martin, Scholasticus

Description

This epistle is from Book IX of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory chastises Martin for not coming to him with information regarding the bishops accused of unlawfully holding assemblies and going to the court without permission. He then instructs Martin to speak with John concerning the investigation.

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 Martin, &c.

Seeing that questions arising in civil affairs need, as is known to thy Greatness, very full enquiry, let thy wisdom consider with what care and vigilance the causes of bishops should be investigated. But, in the letter which thou hast sent us by the bearer of these presents on the questions with respect to which thou wert sent to us by our brother and fellow-bishop Crementius, thou hast given only a superficial account of them, and hast been entirely silent about their root. But, had their origin and intrinsic character been manifest to us, we should have known what should be decided about them, and would then settle the mind of our aforesaid brother by a plain and suitable reply. This, however, is altogether displeasing to us, that thou givest us to understand that some of the bishops have gone to the court without letters from their primate, and that they hold unlawful assemblies. But since, as we have before said, the origin and nature of the questions are entirely unknown to us, we cannot pronounce anything definitely, lest, as would be very reprehensible, we should seem to pass sentence about things imperfectly known. Hence it was very needful that, for our complete information, thy Greatness should have proceeded hither to reply to our questions during the time of thy lingering in Sicily. Nevertheless, now that thou hast seen our brother and fellow-bishop John, we believe that in him thou hast seen us also. And so since he has been at pains himself also to write to us about the same questions, we have written in reply to him what seemed to us right. And, since he is a priest of ripe and caution judgment, if you are willing to treat with him on the questions which he has been commissioned to entertain, we are sure that you will find in him what is both advantageous and reasonable.

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/XIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.