Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXVI: to Anthemius, Subdeacon

Description

This epistle is from Book XIII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory had heard that the bishop Paschasius was so lazy and prideful as to completely neglect his pastoral duties, refuse advice from those wiser than him, and spend all his time and money on the unprofitable building of ships. Therefore Gregory tells Anthemius to bring this bishop before his fellow clergy that they may exhort him to do what is right. If he does not reform himself, he is to be sent to Rome, "that in our presence he may learn what it becomes a priest to do, and how to do it, after the fear of God."

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 Anthemius, Subdeacon of Campania.

It has reached our ears that our brother and fellow-bishop Paschasius is so idle and negligent in all ways that he is in no respect recognised as bishop; and that so neither his own Church, nor the monasteries, nor any, whether the sons of the Church, or the oppressed poor, are conscious of any earnestness of love on his part towards them; nor does he afford any help in what is just to those who supplicate him, and (what is a still more serious thing to say) he cannot bear on any account to receive the counsels of the wise and of such as admire what is right, so that he might at any rate learn from another what he cannot attend to of himself; but, passing over the things that pertain to a pastor's charge, he occupies himself with his whole attention unprofitably in the building of ships. Whence, as is reported, it has come to pass that he has already lost four hundred solidi, or more. This also is added to his faults, that he is said to go down daily to the sea with one or two clerics in so mean a guise as to be the talk among his own people, and to scent to strangers so vile and despicable that he is judged to have nothing in him of the character or venerableness of a bishop. If this be so, know that it is not without fault of thine, who hast delayed to rebuke and restrain him, as is fit. Seeing, then, that all this not only discredits him, but also evidently brings reproach on the office of the priesthood, we desire thee to summon him for this thing before other priests, or some of his noble sons, and exhort him that, shaking off the vice of sluggishness, he be not idle, but vigilant in the care of his Church and of the monasteries, exhibit fatherly charity to his sons, stand up for the defence of the poor with discretion in cases that are commended by justice, and receive gladly the counsels of the wise, to the end that both that city may be comforted by his solicitude, and he himself succeed in covering the faults of his idleness. If however, as we do not believe will be the case, after this our exhortation he should venture to be negligent after his accustomed manner, he must by all means be sent to us, that in our presence he may learn what it becomes a priest to do, and how to do it, after the fear of God. Given in the month of March, Indiction.

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.