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Home > Fathers of the Church > Registrum Epistolarum (Gregory the Great) > Book II, Letter 32

Book II, Letter 32

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To Peter, Subdeacon of Sicily.

Gregory to Peter, etc.

By information received from Romanus the guardian (defensore) I have learned that the monastery of handmaidens of God which is on the farm of Monotheus has suffered wrong from our church of Villa Nova with respect to a farm belonging to the latter, which is said to have been leased to the said monastery. If this is so, let your Experience restore to them the farm, and also the payments from the same farm for the two indictions during which you have exacted them. Moreover, since many of the Jews dwell on the estates of the Church, I desire that, if any of them should be willing to become Christians, some little of their dues be remitted to them, to the end that others also, incited by this benefit, may be moved to a like desire.

Cows which are now barren from age, or bulls which appear to be quite useless, ought to be sold, so that at least some profit may accrue from their price. But as to the herds of mares which we keep very unprofitably, I wish them all to be dispersed, and four hundred only of the younger kept for breeding; which four hundred ought to be presented to the farmers — so many to each, to the end that they may make some return to us from them in successive years: for it is very hard for us to spend sixty solidi on the herdsmen, and not get sixty pence from these same herds. Let then your Experience so proceed that some may be divided among all the farmers, and others dispersed and converted into money. But so arrange with the herdsmen themselves throughout our possessions that they may be able to make some profit by cultivation of the ground. All the implements which, either at Syracuse or at Panormus, can be claimed by the Church must be sold before they perish entirely from age.

On the arrival of the servant of God, brother Cyriacus, at Rome I questioned him closely as to whether he had communicated with you about the receiving of a bribe in the cause of a certain woman. And the same brother says that he had learned the state of the case from your telling him, for that he had been commissioned by you to ascertain who was the person commissioned to pay the bribe. This I believed, and immediately received him familiarly into favour, introduced him to the people and clergy, increased his stipend , placed him in a superior rank among the guardians, praising his fidelity before all, in that he had acquitted himself so faithfully in your service; and I have consequently sent him back to you. But, inasmuch as you are in great haste, and I, though sick, am desirous of seeing you, do thou leave some one whom you have fully proved to take your place in the Syracusan district, and yourself make haste to come to me, that, if it should please Almighty God, we may consult together as to whether you yourself ought to return there or another person should be appointed in your place. At the same time I have sent Benenatus the notary to occupy your place in the patrimony in the district of Panormus till such time as Almighty God may ordain what pleases Him.

I have strongly rebuked Romanus for his levity, because in the Guest-house (xenodochium) which he kept, as I have now discovered, he has been taken up more with his own profits than with [heavenly] rewards. Him, therefore, if it should haply seem good to you, leave in your place. See how you may best fortify him, by alarming and admonishing him, that he may act kindly and carefully towards the peasants (rusticos ); and show himself towards strangers and townspeople changed and active. In saying this, however, I am not selecting any person, but leave this to your judgment. It is enough for me to have selected an occupier of your place in the district of Panormus; and I wish you to see yourself to providing one for the Syracusan district. When you come, bring with you the moneys and ornaments (ornamenta) on the part, or of the substance of Antoninus. Bring also the payments of the ninth and tenth indictions which you have exacted, and with them all your accounts. Take care, if it should please God, to cross the sea for this city before the anniversary of Saint Cyprian, lest any danger should ensue (which God forbid) from the constellation which always threatens the sea at that season.

Furthermore, I would have you know that I have no slight compunctions of mind for having been grievously set against the servant of God Pretiosus for no grievous fault of his, and driven him from me, sad and embittered. And I wrote to the Lord bishop requesting him to send the man to me, if willing to do so; but he was altogether unwilling. Now him I ought not to distress, nor can I do so; since, occupied as he is in the causes of God, he ought to be supported by comfort, not depressed by bitterness. But the said Pretiosus, as I hear, is altogether distressed because he cannot return to me. I, however, as I have said, cannot distress the Lord bishop, who is not willing to send him, and I am doubtful between the two. Do thou then, if in your little diminutive body you have the greater wisdom, manage the matter so that I may have my will, and the Lord bishop be not distressed. Yet, if you see him to be at all distressed, say no more about it. I have, however, taken it amiss that he has excommunicated the Lord Eusebius , a man of so great age and in such bad health. Wherefore it is needful for you to speak privately to the said Lord bishop, that he be not hasty in pronouncing sentences, since cases which are to be decided by sentences must needs be weighed beforehand with careful and very frequent consideration.

When the recruiting officers come, who, as I hear, are already raising recruits in Sicily, charge your substitute to offer them some little present , so as to render them well-disposed towards him. But, before you come away, give also something, according to ancient custom, to the prætor's officials; but do it by the hands of him you leave in your place, so as to conciliate their favour towards him. Also, lest we should seem to them to be at all uncivil, direct your substitutes to carry out in all respects the orders we have given to your Experience as to what is to be given to any individuals or monasteries. But when you come, we will, with the help of God consider together how these things should be arranged. The three hundred solidi which I sent to be given through you to the poor I do not think ought to be committed to their discretion. Let them carry out, then, those directions I have spoken of with reference to particular places and persons.

Now I remember having written before now to say that the legacies, which, according to the representation of Antoninus the guardian (defensoris), are due from us to monasteries or others, were to be paid as had been appointed. And I know not why your Experience has delayed to accomplish this. Wherefore we desire you to pay in full our portion of these legacies from the moneys of the church, that when you come to me, you may not leave there the groans of the poor against you. Bring also with you at the same time the securities which have been found relating to the substance of the same Antoninus.

I have learned on the information of Romanus that the wife of Redemptus, when dying, directed by word of mouth one silver shell to be sold, and the proceeds given to her freedmen, and also left a silver platter to a certain monastery; in respect of both of which bequests we desire her wishes to be fully carried out, lest from the least things we be betrayed into greater sins.

Further, I have learned on the information of the Abbot Marinianus that the building in the Prætorian Monastery is not yet even half completed: which being the case, what can we praise for it but your Experience's fervour ? But even now let this admonition rouse you; and, as far as you can, assert yourself in the construction of this same monastery. I said that nothing was to be given them for the cost; but I did not prohibit their building the monastery. But so proceed as to enjoin in all ways on him whom you may depute in your place at Panormus that he construct this same monastery at the charge of the ecclesiastical revenue, and that I may have no more private complaints from the abbot.

Moreover, I have learned that you know certain things on the farms, even in considerable numbers, to belong to others; but, owing to the entreaty of certain persons or to timidity, you are afraid to restore them to their owners. But, if you were truly a Christian, you would be afraid of the judgment of God more than of the voices of men. Take notice that I unceasingly admonish you on this matter; which if you neglect to set right, you will have also my voice for witness against you. If you should find any of the laity fearing God who might receive the tonsure and become agents under the rector , I give my full con sent. It will be necessary that letters also be sent to them.

Concerning the case of the son of Commissus the scholasticus , you have taken advice; and it appears that what he claims is not just in law. We are unwilling to burden the poor to their disadvantage; but, inasmuch as he has given himself trouble in this matter, we desire you to give him fifty solidi, which must certainly be charged in your accounts. As to the expense you have incurred on the business of the Church in the case of Prochisus, either reimburse yourself there out of his revenues, or, should his revenues be clearly insufficient for the repayment, you must needs receive what is due to you here from the deacon. But presume not to say anything about Gelasius the subdeacon, since his crime calls for the severest penance even to the end of his life.

Furthermore, you have sent me one sorry nag and five good asses. That nag I cannot ride, he is such a sorry one; and those good asses I cannot ride, because they are asses. But we beg that, if you are disposed to content us, you will let us have something suitable. We desire you to give to the abbot Eusebius a hundred solidi of gold, which must certainly be charged in your accounts. We have learned that Sisinnius, who was a judge at Samnium, is suffering from grievous want in Sicily, to whom we desire you to supply twenty decimates of wine and four solidi yearly. Anastasius, a religious person (religiosus ), is said to be living near the city of Panormus in the oratory of Saint Agna, to whom we desire six solidi of gold to be given. We desire also six solidi, to be charged in your accounts, to be given to the mother of Urbicus the Prior. As to the case of the handmaiden of God, Honorata, what seems good to me is this: that you should bring with you when you come all her substance which evidently existed before the time of the episcopate of John, bishop of Laurinum. But let the same handmaiden of God come with her son, that we may speak with her, and do whatever may please God. The volume of the Heptateuch out of the goods of Antoninus we desire to be given to the Prætorian monastery, and the rest of his books to be brought hither by you.

About this page

Source. Translated by James Barmby. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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