GREGORY the Great

Gregory the Great. Petite Heures of Jeanm Duke of Berry

MONK of WHITBY, A.D. 713

[Chapter 29] Some of our people also tell a story related by the Romans of how the soul of the Emperor Trajan was refreshed and even baptized by St. Gregory's tears, a story marvelous to tell and marvelous to hear. Let no one be surprised that we say he was baptized, for without baptism none will ever see God; and a third kind of baptism is by tears.  [Chapter 29] Quidam quoque de nostris dicunt narratum a Romanis, sancti Gregorii lacrimis animam Traiani imperatoris re­ frigeratam vel baptizatam, quod est dictu mirabile et auditu. Quod autem eum dicimus babtizatum, neminem moveat: nemo enim sine babtismo Deum videbit umquam: cuius tertium genus' est' lacrimç. 

ONE day as he was crossing the Forum, a magnificent piece of work for which Trajan is said to have been responsible, he found on examining it carefully that Trajan, though a pagan, had done a deed so charitable that it seemed more likely to have been the deed of a Christian than of a pagan.

Nam die quadam transiens per forum Traianum, quod ab eo opere mirifico constructum dicunt, illud considerans repperit opus tam elemosinarium eum fecisse paganum ut Christiani plus quam pagani esse posse videret

For it is related that, as he was leading his army in great haste against the enemy, he was moved to pity by the words of a widow, and the emperor of the whole world came to a halt. She said, Lord Trajan, here are the men who killed my son and are unwilling to pay me recompense He answered, Tell me about it when I return and I will make them recompense you. But she replied, Lord, if you never return, there will be no one to help me  3 Fertur namque contra hostes exercitum ducens propere pugnaturus, unius ad eum voce viduç misericorditer mollitus, substetisse totius im­perator orbis. Ait enim illa, "Domne Traiane, hic sunt homines qui filium meum occiderunt, nolentes mihi ra­tionem reddere." Cui, "Cum rediero," inquit, "dicito mihi et faciam eos tibi rationem reddere." At illa, "Domine," ait, "si inde non venies, nemo me adiuvet." 
Then, armed as he was, he made the defendants pay forthwith the compensation they owed her, in his presence.  Tunc iam concite reos in eam fecit coram se in armis suis subarratam ei pecuniam conponere quam debuerunt. 
When Gregory discovered this story, he recognized that this was just what we read about in the Bible, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord Hoc igitur sanctus inveniens Gregorius, id esse agnovit quod legimus, "Iudicate pupillo et defendite viduam et venite et arguite me, dicit Dominus." 

Since Gregory did not know what to do to comfort the soul of this man who brought the words of Christ to his mind, he went to St. Peter's Church and wept floods of tears, as was his custom, until he gained at last by divine revelation the assurance that his prayers were answered, seeing that he had never presumed to ask this for any other pagan.

Unde per eum in se habuit Christum lo­quentem ad refrigerium animç eius quid implendo nesci­ebat, ingrediens ad sanctum Petrum solita direxit lacrima­rum / fluenta usque dum promeruit sibi divinitus revela­tum fuisse exauditum5, atque ut numquam de altero illud presumpsisset pagano.




The later redaction of the same story in the Golden Legend of Voobius:


In the time that Trajan the emperor reigned, and on a time as he went toward a battle out of Rome, it happed that in his way as he should ride, a woman, a widow, came to him weeping and said I pray thee, sire, that thou avenge the death of one my son which innocently and without cause hath been slain. The emperor answered: If I come again from the battle whole and sound then I shall do justice for the death of thy son. Then said the widow: Sire, and if thou die in the battle who shall then avenge his death? And the emperor said: He that shall come after me. And the widow said: Is it not better that thou do to me justice and have the merit thereof of God than another have it for thee? Then had Trajan pity and descended from his horse and did justice in avenging the death of her son. On a time Saint Gregory went by the market of Rome which is called the market of Trajan, and then he remembered of the justice and other good deeds of Trajan, and how he had been piteous and debonair, and was much sorrowful that he had been a paynim, and he turned to the church of Saint Peter wailing for the horror of the miscreance of Trajan. Then answered a voice from God saying: I have now heard thy prayer, and have spared Trajan from the pain perpetual. By this, as some say, the pain perpetual due to Trajan as a miscreant was some[what] taken away, but for all that was not he quit from the prison of hell, for the soul may well be in hell and feel there no pain by the mercy of God.



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