Advice to Missionaries

Old advice from a Pope to a missionary to the English, which is still very relevant today.

Pope Gregory sent Augustine (not that one) to be a missionary to the English. When he learned that Augustine was working miracles and that many people were becoming Christians, Gregory sent this advice which I think is still relevant 1400 years later.

‘My very dear brother, I hear that Almighty God has worked great wonders through you for the nation which He has chosen. Therefore let your feeling be one of fearful joy and joyful fear at God’s heavenly gifts – joy that the souls of the English are being drawn through outward miracles to inward grace; fear lest the frail mind becomes proud because of these wonderful events. For when it receives public recognition, it is liable to fall through senseless conceit.

We should remember how the disciples returned from their preaching full of joy, and said to their heavenly Master: ‘Lord, even the devils are subject unto us, through thy name.’ But they received the prompt rejoinder: ‘ In this rejoice not. But rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.’ For, when the disciples rejoiced at these miracles, they were thinking of their transitory personal joy; but Christ recalled them from personal to universal, and from transitory to eternal joy, saying: ‘In this rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.’

For God’s chosen do not all work miracles, yet the names of all are written in heaven. For those who are disciples of the truth should rejoice only in that good thing which they share with all men, and which they shall enjoy for ever. ‘Finally, dearest brother, in all the outward actions which by God’s help you perform, always strictly examine your inner dispositions. Clearly understand your own character, and how much grace is in this nation for whose conversion God has given you the power to work miracles. And if you remember that you have ever offended our Creator by word or action, let the memory of your sin crush any temptation to pride that may arise in your heart. And bear in mind that whatever powers to perform miracles you have received or shall receive from God are entrusted to you solely for the salvation of your people.’

Taken from Bede Ecclesiastic History of the English People.

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2 replies on “Advice to Missionaries”

Are we sure that “the nation that he has chosen” is the correct translation?

If so, is this the first instance of Britain being called God’s chosen nation? And why would Pope Gregory call it that?

I’ve not read the Latin and mine is too rusty to check anyway. However, I don’t read this as exclusive. “Jeremiah was the prophet that God had chosen”, doesn’t mean that God didn’t choose other prophets, just that Jeremiah was in focus when the statement was made.

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