Gregory the Great and Augustine of Canterbury  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Pope Gregory I was born ca 540 and died on this date in 604; he occupied the papacy for the last fourteen years of his life.  Prior to a long career as an ecclesiastical administrator, he was a monk in the Roman monastery of St Andrew.  As pope he selected Augustine, prior of the same monastery, to undertake a mission to England.  Despite Augustine's misgivings, the mission took root and English Roman Catholics and Anglicans both look to these two saints as founders.  The Venerable Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People describes some of the interaction between Gregory and Augustine.
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27. Augustine is made a bishop, tells Pope Gregory what has happened in Britain, and has his questions answered.

In the meantime, Augustine, the man of God, went to Arles [in Gaul] and as instructed by the holy Father Gregory was ordained Archbishop of the English by Aetherius, Archbishop of that city. Returning to Britain, he sent men to Rome to tell Pope Gregory that the English nation had received the faith of Christ, and that he was himself made their bishop. At the same time, he asked Gregory to answer some urgent questions. He soon received fitting answers to his questions, which I have reproduced here:
1. How should bishops relate to their clergy? How should the offerings of the faithful at the altar be apportioned? And how should the bishop act in Church?
Gregory answers: Holy Scripture, which you know well, explains this – particularly the Blessed Paul’s letters to Timothy. He tells him how he should act in the house of God, and it is the custom of the Apostolic See to apply these rules to bishops. All the money they are given should be divided in four: one for the bishop and his household, for hospitality to guests; another for the clergy; a third for the poor; and the fourth for the repair of churches. But you, my brother, have been instructed in monastic rules, so you must not live apart from your clergy in the Church of the English. You must live like our fathers in the primitive Church, none of whom considered his possessions his own, but shared all things common.
Any clerics who are not monks and who are not willing to stay celibate, should to take wives, and receive their income from outside the community, because it is written that the same forefathers I mentioned distributed goods to any who were in need. Watch over their pay and make sure they are provided for. They should be kept under church rules, live orderly lives, oversee the singing of psalms, and, by the help of God, preserve their hearts and tongues and bodies from all that is unlawful. As for those who live as a community, there is no need to say anything about assigning portions, being hospitable and showing mercy, since whatever they have left over is to be used for religious works, according to the teaching of him who is the Lord and Master of all: “Give charitably from what you have, and all things will be clean to you.”
2. Since the faith is one and the same, why are there different customs in different Churches? Why do the holy Roman Church and the Church of Gaul celebrate Mass in different ways?
Gregory answers: You know the customs of the Roman Church in which you remember that you were brought up, my brother. But if you have found anything which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, whether it is in the Roman church or in Gaul, or anywhere else, what I want you to do is to make a careful selection from them, and bring them together in the religion that you teach to the English Church which is still new in the faith. For things are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. So, pick from every Church those things that are pious and right, and when you have made them up into one package, let the English grow accustomed to it.

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at Saturday, March 12, 2016 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

1 comments

Anonymous  

Thank tou

May 5, 2016 at 2:20 PM

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