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Home > Fathers of the Church > Registrum Epistolarum (Gregory the Great) > Book XI, Letter 12

Book XI, Letter 12

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To Conon, Abbot of Lirinus (Lerins).

Gregory to Conon, Abbot of the Monastery of Lirinus .

The carefulness of persons in authority is the safeguard of subjects, since one who watches over what is entrusted to him avoids the snares of the enemy. But how skilful you are in ruling the brethren, and how earnestly watchful in keeping guard over them, we have learned from the report of our most reverend brother and fellow bishop Mennas . And as our hearing of the unwary remissness of your predecessor often saddened us, so the carefulness of your foresight gladdens us, since there is no doubt that the safeguard of your earnestness is of profit for reward to you, and for example to do good to others.

But, since the more our adversary knows himself to be guarded against on all sides, the more he seeks to break in by hidden ways, and strives with cunning art to overthrow his opponent, let the watchfulness of your Love ever kindle itself to more ardent care; and so, with God's help, fortify all beforehand, that the ravening wolf, running about hither and there, may have no place for entering among the Lord's sheep. Be it then your earnest endeavour, the grace of our Redeemer aiding you, to prohibit and in all ways guard those who are committed to you from gluttony, from pride, from avarice, from idle speaking, and from all uncleanness; that by so much the greater reward may accrue to you from the government committed to you as your subjects, through your vigilance, shall be conquerors against the iniquities of the adversary.

Wherefore let the good feel you sweet, the bad a corrector. And even in correction know that this order should be observed, that you should love persons and visit faults; lest, if you should perchance be disposed to act otherwise, correction should pass into cruelty, and you should destroy those whom you desire to amend. For you ought so to cut away a sore as not to run the risk of ulcerating what is sound; lest, if you press in the steel more than the case requires, you injure him whom you are in haste to benefit. For let your very sweetness be wary, not remiss; and let your correction be loving, not severe. But let the one be so seasoned by the other that both the good may have, in loving, something to beware of, and the bad, in fearing, something to love.

Attend carefully to these things, most beloved son; earnestly observe them; that, when through such management you shall have given back safe to God those whom you have received from Him, you may be counted worthy in the day of eternal retribution to hear Him say, Well done, good and faithful servant: because you have been faithful in a few things, I will set you over many things: enter into the joy of your Lord Luke 19:17. Further, we desire that our son Columbus the presbyter, who is commended to your Charity by his own merits, may advance in your love from our commendation also.

About this page

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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