Pope Saint Gregory to the Pastors of Souls

Messa di S Gregorio MagnoThe Great Judgment

Let us call to mind that dreadful day when the Judge shall come, and shall call to account His servants, to whom He gave talents. He shall appear in awful majesty, amid choirs of angels and archangels. At that great Judgment the multitude of the elect and the reprobate shall be brought to trial, and the deeds of each shall be made manifest. There Peter shall appear bringing with him his converts of Judea. There Paul shall appear, bringing with him, so to speak, the whole world which he converted. There Andrew shall present to his King his converts of Achaia ; John, those of Asia ; and Thomas, those of India. There all the rams of the flock of God, who by their holy preaching brought their people to God, shall appear with the profit they have earned in souls. When so many pastors shall present themselves with their flocks to the eternal Pastor of souls, what shall we poor wretches say, who return empty-handed from our toil ; who have the name of pastors, but have no sheep fed by us to present ? We have the name of pastors here, but there we have no sheep to bring.

Clergy on the Way to Hell

But if we neglect God s flock, will the Almighty abandon it ? Assuredly not. For as He promised by the prophet (Ezec. xxxiv.), He feeds it in person, and whom He has fore–ordained unto life He instructs by the smart of scourges, and by the spirit of compunction. By our ministry, it is true, the faithful are brought to holy baptism, by our prayers they are blessed, by the imposition of our hands they receive from God the Holy Spirit, they obtain the kingdom of heaven ; and lo, we, through our negligence, go down to hell. Purified by the hands of priests the elect enter their heavenly country, while priests them selves, by their sinful life, hasten to eternal torments. To what then shall I compare bad priests, but to baptismal water, which washes away the sins of the baptized and sends them on to heaven, while it flows itself down into the sewers ?

Weigh Well Our Office

Brethren, let us stand in dread of such a fate. Let our ministry and our life be in harmony. Let us every day take thought about the forgiveness of our sins, nor let us, by whom Almighty God sets others free, spend our days in the bondage of sin. Let us unceasingly keep in mind what we are, and weigh well our office and the burden we have undertaken. Let us daily examine how stand our accounts with our Judge. And while we make provision for ourselves we must not neglect our neighbour, that so every man who approaches us may be seasoned with the salt of our exhortation.

Unmarried

When we see an unmarried person leading an unchaste life, we should admonish him to bridle his passion by entering the married state, and to learn by what is lawful to overcome what is unlawful.

Married

If we have to deal with a married person, we should admonish him to attend to the cares of the world in such a way as not to forget the love of God, and strive so to please his wife as not to displease his Creator.

Clergy

When we have to treat with a cleric, we should warn him to live so as to be an example to seculars, lest if his conduct be reprehensible the honour of religion suffer through his fault.

Monks

When we deal with a monk we should admonish him to pay attention in his acts, in his words and in his thoughts, to the respect due to his habit, to abandon perfectly the things of the world, and to strive to be such in conduct before the eyes of God as he appears in habit before the eyes of men.

Seasoned with Salt

Let us exhort the holy to advance in holiness, and the wicked to correct his vices, so that every man who comes in contact with the priest may go away seasoned with the salt of his discourse. Brethren, lay these things seriously to heart, speak of these things to your people, prepare to offer to Almighty God the fruit of the charge you have undertaken.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Homily XVII on the Gospels

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