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Home > Fathers of the Church > Registrum Epistolarum (Gregory the Great) > Book X, Letter 36

Book X, Letter 36

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To Maximus, Bishop of Salona .

Gregory to Maximus, etc.

When our common son the presbyter Veteranus came to the Roman city, he found me so weak from the pains of gout as to be quite unable to answer your Fraternity's letters myself. And indeed with regard to the nation of the Sclaves , from which you are in great danger, I am exceedingly afflicted and disturbed. I am afflicted as suffering already in your suffering: I am disturbed, because they have already begun to enter Italy by way of Istria. Further, of Julian the scribo , what shall I say, seeing that I see everywhere how our sins find us out, so as to cause us to be disturbed by the nations from without and by judges from within? But be not at all saddened by such things, since those who shall live after us will see worse times; so much so, that they will regard us as having had happy days in comparison with their own. But, so far as your Fraternity has power, you ought to oppose yourself in behalf of the poor, in behalf of the oppressed. And, even if you should be unable to do any good, the very devotion of your heart, which Almighty God has given, is enough for Him. For it is written, Rescue them that are drawn unto death, and forbear not to deliver them that are ready to be slain Proverbs 24:11. But if you should say, My powers are insufficient, He who sees into the heart understands. In all that you do, then, desire to have Him Who sees into the heart well-pleased with you. But whatever there is whereby He may be pleased omit not to do. For human terrors and favours are like smoke, which is snatched by a light breeze and vanishes away. Know this most assuredly, that no one can please God and bad men. Let, therefore, your Fraternity esteem yourself to have pleased Almighty God in such degree as you know yourself to have displeased froward men. Yet let your defense of the poor itself be moderate and grave, lest, if anything be done too rigidly, men should think you actuated by the pride of youth. But our defense of the poor must needs be found of such sort that both the humble may feel protection and oppressors may not easily find what out of a malevolent disposition they may blame. Attend, then, to what is said to Ezekiel, Son of man, unbelievers and destroyers are with you, and you dwell among scorpions Ezekiel 2:6. And the blessed Job says, I have been a brother of dragons, and a companion of owls Job 30:29. And Paul says to his disciples, In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world Philippians 2:15. We ought, then, to walk all the more cautiously as we know that we are living among the enemies of God. Further, with regard to the Photinianists, let your Fraternity pay the utmost attention; and, as you have begun, study how to recall them to the bosom of holy Church. But, if any should wish to come to me, and to receive an explanation, let them first make oath that they will not permit their followers to persist in their error even after an explanation has been received. And then let your Holiness promise them that they will suffer no wrong from me, but that I will give them an explanation. If they should acknowledge the truth, let them accept it; if they should not acknowledge it, I will dismiss them unharmed. But, if any of them should wish to come to us against you, let your Fraternity by no means detain them; for, when they come, they shall either accept an explanation, or assuredly they will not see that land any more.

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Source. Translated by James Barmby. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1898.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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