Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXXI: to Libertinus, Ex-Praetor


This epistle is from Book X of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory exhorts Libertinus to bless God both in fortune and in adversity.


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 Libertinus, &c.

What straits you are in with regard to the things of this world is not unknown to us. But, since to those who are placed in the utmost tribulation the only comfort is the mercy of the Creator, rest your hope on Him, and turn to Him with your whole heart, Who both justly allows whom He will to be afflicted and will mercifully deliver one who trusts in Him. To Him, then, give thanks, and patiently endure what has been brought upon you. For it is the part of a right mind not only to bless God in prosperity, but also in adversities to join in praising Him. In these things therefore that you are suffering let no murmur against God creep into your heart, since for what purpose our Creator thus works is unknown. For perchance, magnificent son, thou didst offend Him in something when in a state of prosperity, from which He would purge thee by kindly bitterness. And so neither let temporal affliction break thee down nor losses of thy goods distract thee, since if, returning thanks in adversity, thou make God propitious to thee by thy patience, both the things that were lost are multiplied, and in addition to this, eternal joys held out to thee. I beg thee, however, not to take it amiss that we have written through Romanus the guardian to order twenty suits of clothing to be supplied from us to your servants, seeing that things, however small, which are offered from the goods of the blessed Apostle Peter are always to be taken for a great blessing, since he will have power both to bestow on you greater things, and to hold out to you eternal benefits with Almighty God. The month of June, 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.

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