Fathers of the Church
Epistle VI: to Brunichild, Queen of the Franks
by Gregory the Great in 603 | translated by James Barmby, D.d
Gregory to Brunichild, &c.
Among other excellencies in you this holds the chief place beyond the rest, that in the midst of the waves of this world, which are wont with turbulent vexation to confound the minds of rulers, you so bring back your heart to the love of divine worship and to providing for the quiet of venerable places as if no other care troubled you. Whence, since conduct of this kind on the part of potentates is wont to be a great defence to subjects, we declare the nation of the Franks happy beyond other nations, having been accounted worthy to have a queen thus endowed with all good qualities.
On learning from the information contained in your letters that you have built the Church of Saint Martin in the suburbs of Augustodunum (Autun), and a monastery for hand-maidens of God, and also a hospital in the same city, we rejoiced greatly, and returned thanks to Almighty God, who stimulates the sincerity of your heart to the doing of these things. In this case, that we may be held to some degree sharers in your good deeds, we have granted privileges according to your wish, to those places for the quiet and protection of those who live in them; nor have we borne to defer even in the least degree our embracing of your Excellency's desires.
Furthermore, addressing you in the first place with the greeting of paternal charity, we inform you that to our illustrious sons, but your servants and legates, Burgoaldus and Varmaricarius, we have granted a private interview in accordance with what you wrote to us; and they have disclosed to us in detail all that they said they had been charged with. It will be our care in time to come to inform your Excellency of whatever is done with regard to these things. For, as for us, whatever is possible, whatever is profitable, and tends to the settlement of peace between you and the republic, we desire, under God, with the utmost devotion, that it should be accomplished.
As to Mennas, our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop, after we had enquired into what had been said about him, and found him in no way culpable, and he having made satisfaction under oath before the most sacred body of the blessed apostle Peter, and so proved himself to be unaffected by what had been objected against his reputation, we have allowed him to return to his post purged and acquitted, since, as it was right, if he were in any respect guilty, that we should punish his fault canonically, so it was not right when he had the support of innocence, that we should detain him longer, or any way distress him.
Moreover, with respect to a certain bishop who, as the aforesaid magnificent men have told us, is prevented by infirmity of the head from administering his office, we have written to our brother and fellow-bishop Etherius, that if he should have intervals of freedom from this infirmity, he should make petition, claring that he is not competent to fill his own place, and requesting that another be ordained to his Church. For during the life of a bishop, whom not his own fault but sickness, withdraws from the administration of his office, the sacred canons by no means allow another to be ordained in his place. But, if he at no time recovers the exercise of a sound mind, a person should be sought adorned with good life and conversation, who may be able both to take charge of souls, and look with salutary control after the causes and interests of the same church; and he should be such as may succeed to the bishop's place in case of his surviving him. But, if there are any to be promoted to a sacred order, or to any clerical ministry, we have ordained that the matter is to be reserved and announced to our aforesaid most reverend brother Etherius, provided it belong to his diocese, so that, enquiry having then been made, if the persons are subject to no fault which the sacred canons denounce, he himself may ordain them. Let, then, the care of your Excellency conjoin itself with our ordering, to the end that the interests of the Church, which you have exceedingly at heart, may not suffer damage, and that increase of reward may accrue to the good deeds of your Excellency.
Having been asked likewise concerning a certain bigamist whether he might be admitted to a sacred order, we have, according to canonical rule, altogether forbidden it. For God forbid that in your times, in which you do so many pious and religious things, you should allow anything to be done contrary to ecclesiastical ordinance.
Moreover the aforesaid magnificent men, our sons, having delivered us a schedule, have requested among other things, what they said had been enjoined on them by your order, that such a person may be sent from us into Gaul as may, on the assembling of a synod, correct under the guidance of Almighty God whatever has been perpetrated against the most sacred canons. Herein we recognize the care of your Glory, how you take thought for the life of the soul and the stability of your kingdom, seeing that, fearing our Redeemer, and observing His precepts in all ways, you act in this case also so that the government of your kingdom may long subsist, and that after long courses of years you also may pass from an earthly to a heavenly kingdom. At a fitting time, if what we have said should be pleasing to God, we will take care to fulfil the venerable desires of your Excellency.
We, then, for the defence of the places about which your Excellency has written to us have been careful to order all things as you wish. But, lost haply our decrees should be suppressed at any time by the governors of those places on the ground that they are found to be interdicted from doing certain things, this same ordinance must be inserted among the public acts, that so it may be kept in your royal archives as well as in ours.
May Almighty God ever keep your Excellency in His fear, and so fulfil your desires and those of our sons the most excellent kings your grandsons, through the intercession of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, to whom you commend them, as to grant you to have stable joy in their continual welfare, as you desire. Given in the month of November, 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.