Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXXIV: to Pantaleo, Notary


This epistle is from Book XIII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory commends Pantaleo for putting a stop to an unjust economic situation. He also asks the notary to make a list of all poor husbandmen in his estates, that he may buy livestock for them with money confiscated from fraudulent activity.


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 Pantaleo, &c.

Thy Experience remembers what and what kind of oath thou tookest over the most sacred body of the blessed apostle Peter. Whence also we committed to thee without fear the charge of enquiry in the patrimony of the Syracusan district. It is, then, incumbent on thee to have thine own good faith and the fear of the same blessed apostle Peter ever before thine eyes, and so to act that neither with men in this present life nor with Almighty God in the last judgment thou mayest be open to blame. Now from the report of Salerius our chartularius we have learnt that thou hast found the modius in which the husbandmen (coloni) of the Church have been compelled to give their corn to be one of twenty-five sextarii. This we altogether execrated, and were sorry thou hadst been late in making it a subject of enquiry. We rejoice, therefore, at thy telling us that thou hast broken the said modius and made a just one. But, inasmuch as the aforesaid chartularius has taken care to mention also what has already been collected under thy Experience by the fraudulent dealings of the farmers (conductores) from two territories, therefore, even as with a view to the future, we rejoice that thou hast acted zealously in breaking the unjust modius, so also we think of sins in the past; lest, if what the farmers have fraudulently taken away from the peasants (rusticis) accrues to us, we should be implicated in their sins. And accordingly we desire thy Experience, with all faithfulness, with all integrity—having regard to the fear of Almighty God, and recalling to mind the strictness of the blessed apostle Peter—to make a list throughout each several estate (massam) of poor and indigent husbandmen, and with the money found to have been got by fraud to procure cows, sheep, and swine, and distribute them among the several poor husbandmen. And this we desire thee to do with the advice of the most reverend lord bishop John, and Adrian our chartularius and rector. If, moreover, it should be necessary for the sake of consultation, our son also the lord Julian should be called in, so that no one else may know, but all be kept quite secret. Do you therefore consult among yourselves whether this same assistance should be given to the said poor husbandmen in money or in kind. But, whatever be the common fund, first, as I have said, make a list, and afterwards take pains to distribute to each according to the degree of his poverty. For I, as the teacher of the Gentiles testifies, have all and abound; nor do I seek money, but reward (Phil. iv.). So act therefore that in the day of judgment thou mayest shew me fruit of thy, labour from the service that has been committed to thy Experience. If thou do this purely, faithfully, and strenuously, thou wilt both receive it back here in thy children, and hereafter wilt have plenary retribution in the scrutiny of the Eternal Judge.

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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