Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXXV: to Barbara and Antonina

Description

This epistle is from Book XI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory sends comforting words to Barbara and Antonina because of the sickness of their father Venantius, and assures them that he will care for them if they are left orphans. (Venantius had formerly been a monk, but had abandoned his professed life some time ago.) See also Epistle XXXVI, Book XI.

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 Barbara, &c.

Having received your Glory's letters, which spoke with tears for words, we, most beloved daughters, are affected by no less sorrow than yourselves for your father's sickness. For we cannot account that sadness as extraneous which is made our own by the law of charity. But, since in no state of despair ought there to be distrust in the mercy of our Redeemer, raise your spirits for the comforting of your father, place your hope in the hand of Almighty God, and by His protection we trust that He will guard you from all adversity, and cheer your tribulation, and grant you to be favourably disposed of according to your father's desires. But should He pay the debt of our human lot, even then let not any despair crush you, nor the words of any persons cause you alarm. For after God, Who is the governor and protector of orphans, we will be so solicitous in behalf of your most sweet Glory, and will so make haste, with the Lord's help, to provide as we can for your advantage, that no rough handling of unjust men may perturb you, and that we may repay in all ways the debt we have contracted from the goodness of your parents. And so may heavenly grace nurture you with its favour and defend you by its protection from all evils, that your safety may become our joy.

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.