Pastoral Practice: Books 3 and 4 of the Regula Pastoralis by Saint Gregory the Great

Article excerpt

Pastoral Practice: Books 3 and 4 of the Regula Pastoralis by Saint Gregory the Great. An English Version by John Lienenweber. Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1998. xiii + 146 pp. $13.00 (paper).

Among the patrisitic writings, there are three treatments of the pastoral office that have been of almost continuous popularity and importance down through the ages. Two are Greek, the De fuga of Gregory of Nazianzus (otherwise known as the Second Theological Oration) and the De sacerdotio of John Chrysostom, and one is Latin, the Regula pastoralis of Gregory the Great. Indeed Gregory the Great mentions his own debt to Gregory of Nazianzus at the beginning of Book 3 of his own Regula.

Anglicans have loved these books particularly. Chrysostom's On the Priesthood, in Graham Neville's revision of T. A. Moxon's translation, is still in print and is on every seminary reading list. The late Michael Ramsey, in his own little classic, The Christian Priest Today, mentioned that he read Gregory's Regula in the period just before his own consecration as a bishop, and so he reminded us of Gregory's work.

Ramsey was right about the Regula when he remarked that "while its practical counsels are remote from our own time it recalls a great ideal" (The Christian Priest Today, Cowley Publications, revised edition 1987, p. 95). What is still evident to the reader of this work and Gregory's other writings is the wide range of Gregory's mind and his deep concern for the well-being of the Christian community.

Lienenweber has given us a translation (because of some justifiable liberties he has taken, he prefers to call it an "English version") of Books 3 and 4 of Gregory's immensely influential treatment of the role of the bishop. This version is designed to be of broader interest to all who exercise pastoral ministry today. In this he has done an admirable job. The English reads well and smoothly, and Lienenweber has succeeded in making a text that is 1400 years old accessible to those without any other knowledge of the ancient world. …