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Epistle LI.

To the Brethren going to England (Angliam)16661666    This, with the eight following letters (51–59), were committed to Augustine, who is spoken of in several of them as the bearer, when he was sent back from Rome to rejoin his companions.  Bede (H. E. I. 23), and John the deacon (Vit. S. Greg. II. 33), say that the missionaries—“cum aliquantulum itinerus confecissent” (Bede)—“post dies aliquot” (John Diac.)—were deterred by what they had heard of the difficulties of their undertaking, and sent Augustine to Rome to request leave to give it up and that Gregory sent him back to them with letters of admonition and of commendation.  No commendatory letters seem to have been given them when they first set out.  Those now sent are addressed to the bishops of Turni (al. Turon), Marseilles, Arles, Vienne, Autun, and Aix in Provenee, to the abbot of Lerins, to Arigius, Patrician of Gaul, to Theodoric and Theodebert, the two boy-kings of Burgundy and Austrasia, and to queen Brunechild their grandmother, who at this time ruled Austrasia as Theodebert’s guardian.  See Pedigree of Kings of Gaul, p. xxx.  The letters which come first in order, 51 and 52, being dated 22 July a.d. 596, we may conclude that the missionaries had been originally despatched in the spring of the same year.  They appear to have got as far as the southern coast of Provence, since the letters to the bishop of Aix and the Abbot of Lerins shew that Augustine had already visited them, though not, apparently, any others to whom letters are now addressed.  The mission was accompanied by Candidus, sent out as Rector of the patrimony in Gaul (cf. Ep. VII.), who is also commended in the letter.  The patrimony appears to have been attended to previously in a way not satisfactory to Gregory by the bishops of Arles (see below, Epp. LIII., LV.).  This letter is not found in the Registrum Epistolorum; but given by Bede (I. 23), and by John the Deacon (Vit. S. Greg. lib. ii. c. 34)..

Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to the servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.

203bSince it had been better not to have begun what is good than to return back from it when begun, you must, most beloved sons, fulfil the good work which with the help of the Lord you have begun.  Let, then, neither the toil of the journey nor the tongues of evil-speaking men deter you; but with all instancy and all fervour go on with what under God’s guidance you have commenced, knowing that great toil is followed by the glory of an eternal reward.  Obey in all things humbly Augustine your provost (præposito), who is returning to you, whom we also appoint your abbot, knowing that whatever may be fulfilled in you through his admonition will in all ways profit your souls.  May Almighty God protect you with His grace, and grant to me to see the fruit of your labour in the eternal country; that so, even though I cannot labour with you, I may be found together with you in the joy of the reward; for in truth I desire to labour.  God keep you safe, most beloved sons.  Given the tenth day of the Kalends of August, the fourteenth year of the Emperor our lord Mauricius Tiberius, the most pious Augustus, the thirteenth year of the consulship of our said lord, Indiction 14.

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