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Epistle XXIII.

To Fantinus, Guardian (Defensorem).

Gregory to Fantinus, &c.

From the information of the lady abbess of the monastery of Saint Stephen in the territory of Agrigentum we find that many of the Jews, divine grace inspiring them, wish to be converted to the Christian faith; but that it is necessary for some one to go thither by our command.  Accordingly we enjoin thee, in virtue of the authority hereby given thee, that, putting aside every excuse, thou make haste to go to the aforesaid place, and with the favour of God aid their desire by thy exhortations.  If, however, it seems long and dreary for them to look forward to the Paschal solemnity, and thou findest them anxious for baptism now, then lest long delay should possibly change their minds (which God forbid), speak thou with our brother the bishop of that place, that, penitence and abstinence having been prescribed them for forty days, he may baptize them under the protection of the mercy of Almighty God on a Lord’s day, or on any very noted festival that may chance to occur; since the character of the present time too, on account of impending calamity, impels us not to defer the fulfilment of their desires by any procrastination.  Further, whomsoever of them thou ascertainest to be poor and without sufficient means for buying vestments for themselves, we desire thee to supply with vestments for their baptism; and know that the price that thou mayest give for them is to be charged in thy accounts.  But, if they should choose to wait for the holy season of Easter, speak again with the bishop, that they may for the present become catechumens, and that he may go to them frequently, and pay careful attention to them, and kindle their minds by the admonition of his exhortations, so that the more distant the expected festival is, the more may they prepare themselves and with fervent desire look forward to it.

Furthermore, let it be thy care to enquire with all zeal and diligence whether the above-named monastery over which the aforesaid lady presides has sufficient means, or whether it suffers any need.  And whatever thou mayest truly ascertain, as well as what is done with respect to those who desire to be baptized, make haste to inform us in full.  The Month of June, first Indiction.

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