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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXII: to Rusticiana, Patrician Lady

Description

This epistle is from Book XIII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. In it Gregory offers his prayers for Rusticiana, as she suffers greatly from gout, and asks for her prayers for himself. He then alerts her to the fact that a man named Beator is calling himself a privatarum (imperial office responsible for the property of the imperial family) and is doing many things harmful to her people. He asks her to inform the princes that they may prevent any wrongdoing.

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 603 | translated by James Barmby, D.d

Gregory to Rusticiana, &c.

As often as any one comes to us from the royal city, we take care to enquire of your bodily health; but, my sins being the cause, I always hear what I am sorry to hear, since, frail and weak as you already are, it is reported that the pains of gout still grow upon you. But I pray the Almighty Lord that whatever befalls your body may be ordered to the health of your soul, and that temporal scourges may prepare for you eternal rest, and that through the pains which have an end He may grant you joys without end. As for me, I live in such a state of groaning and in the midst of such occupations that it irks me to have arrived at these days which now I spend, and my only consolation is the expectation of death. Wherefore I beg you to pray for me, to the end that I may be soon released from this prison of the flesh, so as to be no longer tormented by such great pains.

Furthermore, I have to inform you that a certain person has come here, Beator by name, who gives himself out as comes privatarum, and is doing many things against all, but principally against your Excellency's people, or those of your most noble granddaughters, as though he were making enquiry into matters of public import. And we indeed will not permit him to act wrongfully, but neither can we stand in the way of public interests. Do you therefore treat as you can with the most pious princes, that they may countermand any wrongful proceeding on his part. For neither is the public interest served by any kind of turmoil, nor does he appear to reclaim anything of great amount. I beg that my most sweet son the lord Strategius be greeted in my behalf, whom may Almighty God nourish for Himself and for you, and ever comfort you by His own grace and by the young lord's life. Further, what should I write to you concerning your return hither, knowing as you do how much I desire it? But, when I look to the obligations of the business that detains you, I am in despair; and so I implore the Creator of all that, wherever you are, and wherever you may be, He would protect you by the extension of His right hand, and preserve you from all evil.

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.