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Home > Fathers of the Church > Registrum Epistolarum (Gregory the Great) > Book XIV, Letter 2

Book XIV, Letter 2

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To Vitalis, Guardian (Defensorem) of Sardinia.

Gregory to Vitalis, etc.

From the information given us by your Experience we find that the hospitals [or -houses, xenodochia] founded in Sardinia are suffering from grievous neglect. Hence our most reverend brother and fellow bishop Januarius would have had to be most strongly reprehended, did not his old age and simplicity, and the sickness which you have told us of coming on besides, keep us in check.

Seeing, then, that he is so situated that he cannot be fit to order anything, warn the steward of that Church, and Epiphanius the archpresbyter, under our strict authority, that they themselves at their own peril endeavour themselves carefully and profitably to set those same hospitals (xenodochia) in order. For, if there should be any neglect there hereafter, let them know that they will not be able in any manner, or to any extent, to excuse themselves before us.

Further, since the proprietors of Sardinia have petitioned us that, seeing that they are afflicted by diverse burdens, you might go to Constantinople for their redress, we grant you leave to go. And we have also written to our most beloved son Boniface, desiring him to do his best to lend you his aid in obtaining redress for that province.

Moreover, with regard to the Churches which you have informed us are without priests , we have written to our aforesaid most reverend brother and fellow bishop Januarius, that he should supply them; yet so that all be not chosen for the episcopate from his own Church. For it becomes him so to supply other Churches as not to cause want in his own of persons who may be of advantage to it.

As to what you have told us of persons having been preferred to the government of certain monasteries who, while they were in a lower monastic order, had fallen into sin, they ought not indeed to have undertaken the office of abbot except after entire reformation of life and after due preceding penance. But since, as you say, they have undertaken the office of abbots, heed must be given to their life, manners, and attention to duty. And, if their conduct should not be found inconsistent with their office, let them persevere in the order in which they are. Otherwise let them be removed, and others ordained who may profit the souls committed to them.

Furthermore, in the case of the monastery of Saint Hermas, which was founded by our brother in the house of the religious lady Pomponiana, inasmuch as it should be treated with tenderness rather than with strictness, let your Experience endeavour to deal sweetly with the said lady, to the end that neither may she, to her own sin, disregard the will of the founder, nor fail to provide salubriously for the advantage of the monastery. Further, as to the girls of whom the aforesaid Pomponiana had formerly changed the religious dress, and converted them in the monastery , you must by no means suffer them to be withdrawn from her, or disquieted; but let them continue, God protecting them, in the state of life in which they are.

With regard to the recovery of the property of Churches, or of monasteries, or any other devoted to pious uses, about which you have written, those who are interested must be admonished that it is for them to seek in all ways to recover it with your support and aid. But, if they should haply prove negligent, or in any case if such as ought to recover it should not be found, then search it all out and so get it back, when discovered, as not to appear to take legal action against any one with a high hand. As to what you have told us with respect to the hospitals (xenodochia) of Hortulanus and Thomas, we so far have no knowledge. Wherefore let your Experience look diligently into the order of the Emperor so far given, and arrange all according to its tenour, and make known to us whatever you have done.

Concerning what you have written about our brother and fellow bishop Januarius at the time when he celebrates the sacrifice often suffering such distress that he can hardly after long intervals return to the place in the canon where he has left off, and as to many doubting whether they should receive the Communion from his consecration, they are to be admonished to be in no alarm at all, but communicate with full faith and security, since a person's sickness neither alters nor defiles the benediction of the sacred mystery. Nevertheless our said brother should by all means be exhorted privately, that, as often as he feels any trouble coming on, he should not proceed to celebration, lest he thus expose himself to contempt, and cause offense to the minds of the weak.

Furthermore, the religious lady Pomponiana has complained to us that the inheritance of her late son-in-law Epiphanius — of which the said Epiphanius had appointed his wife Matrona, daughter of the aforesaid Pomponiana, to be usufructuary for the benefit of the monastery which he had directed to be founded in his house, and for its benefit also in all ways after the extinction of the usufruct — together with other things which are proved to belong to the same Matrona by right of possession, have been unjustly taken away by your Experience and by our most reverend brother and fellow bishop Januarius, and that nothing therefore has so far been paid to her daughter, or been of profit to the monastery. Now if the truth is so, and you are aware of having done anything unbecomingly, without any delay restore what has been taken away; or at any rate, if you think it to be otherwise lest the opposite party should seem to be aggrieved prejudicially, by no means defer submitting the case to arbitrators chosen with her concurrence, that it may be declared by a definite decision whether her complaint be true and just.

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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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