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Epistle LX.

To Italica, Patrician15131513    Possibly the same lady whom the ex-monk Venantius married.  See I. 34, note 8, and IX. 123.  The correspondence that took place at this time between her and Gregory seems to have arisen from some question of legal right, in which she appeared to the latter to be dealing harshly with some poor persons, perhaps peasants (rustici) on an estate of the Church (hujus Ecclesiæ pauperibus).  The passing tribute paid in this letter to the lady’s personal charms is characteristic of Gregory’s complimentary style, and (supposing her to have been the same Italica who became the bride of Venantius) suggests one attraction which may have drawn the latter away from his intended monastic life.  Further on the same supposition, we may perhaps read with interest between the lines of this letter something of the feeling subsisting at the time of writing between the correspondents.  She, being a well-bred patrician lady, had evidently written to him with gentle courtesy.  But he detected, or thought he detected, something wanting in the tone of her letter.  Nor was she likely to feel warmly towards him who now called her to account, if it were he whom she knew to have done all he could to alienate Venantius from her.  He, on the other hand while addressing her in return with all the courtesy due to her rank and character, and evidently anxious to avoid unpleasantness, shews signs of not being entirely satisfied as to her feelings towards himself, or her readiness to follow his admonitions.  It is interesting to observe that, judging from the tone of subsequent Epistles, we may conclude very friendly relations to have been afterwards maintained between Gregory and the wedded pair..

Gregory to Italica, &c.

We have received your letter, which is full 140bof sweetness, and rejoice to hear that your Excellency is well.  Such is the sincerity of our own mind with regard to it that paternal affection does not allow us to suspect any latent ill-feeling concealed under its calmness.  But may Almighty God bring it to pass, that, as we think what is good of you, so your mind may respond with good towards us, and that you may exhibit in your deeds the sweetness which you express in words.  For the most glorious health and beauty on the surface of the body profit nothing if there is a hidden sore within.  And that discord is the more to be guarded against to which exterior peace affords a bodyguard.  But as to what your Excellency in your aforesaid epistle takes pains to recall to our recollection, remember that you have been told in writing that we would not settle anything with you concerning the causes of the poor so as to cause offence, or with public clamour.  We remember writing to you to this effect, and also know, God helping us how to restrain ourselves with ecclesiastical moderation from the wrangling of suits at law, and, according to that apostolical sentence, to endure joyfully the spoiling of our goods.  But this we suppose you to know; that our silence and patience will not be to the prejudice of future pontiffs after me in the affairs of the poor.  Wherefore we, in fulfilment of our aforesaid promise, have already determined to keep silence on these questions; nor do we desire to mix ourselves personally in these transactions, wherein we feel that too little kindness is being shewn.  But, lest you should hence imagine, glorious daughter, that we still altogether renounce what pertains to concord, we have given directions to our son, Cyprianus the deacon, who is going to Sicily, that, if you arrange about these matters in a salutary way, and without sin to your soul, he should settle them with you by our authority, and that we should be no further vexed by the business which may thus be brought to a conclusion amicably.  Now may Almighty God, who well knows how to turn to possibility things altogether impossible, may He inspire you both to arrange your affairs with a view to peace, and, for the good of your soul, to consult the benefit of the poor of this Church in matters which concern them.

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