3 September: St. Gregory I, “the Great”

In the newer calendar today is the feast of St. Pope Gregory the Great.

Here is this Pope’s entry in the Roman Martyrology. There might be a slight flaw in the Latin text.

Can you find it?

Memoria sancti Gregorii Magni, papae et Ecclesiae doctoris, qui, vita monastica inita, munere legati Constantinopoli functus est et, ad Sedem Romanam hac die tandem electus, et terrena composuit et sacra servus servorum curavit. Verum se exhibuit pastorem in rebus regendis, in egenis omnimodo subveniendo, in vita monastica fovenda, necnon in fide ubique firmanda vel propaganda, quapropter multa etiam de re morali ac pastorali egregie scripsit. Obiit vero die duodecima martii.

Who wants to give the readers a perfect and smooth version?

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39 Responses to 3 September: St. Gregory I, “the Great”

  1. Steve says:

    …in egenis omnimodo subveniendis…?

    Steve

  2. Berolinensis says:

    This is my attempt (bear patience, please, with a non-native English speaker, but since St. Gregory is my Patron Saint, I did want to try it):

    “Memory of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church, who, having entered monastic life, exercised the office of legate at Constantinople and, finally elected to the See of Rome on this day, both pacified earthly matters and, as servant of the servants, took care of the sacred. He proved himself a true shepherd at governing, helping the needy in every way, fostering monastic life, and at strengthening or spreading the faith everywhere, for which reason he also wrote many and eminent works on morals and pastoral. He died however on March 12th.”

    As to the flaw, I also could only think of the one pointed out by Steve. However, it is not really incorrect, merely stylistically inferior, no?

  3. It’s … it’s … but I’m not tellin’, ’cause I remember it from some previous year. I made three or four guesses, then begged FrZ to reveal the secret.

  4. Federico says:

    Maybe I’m completely wrong, but….

    The verbs in the first sentence (functus est, curavit etc.) are all third person singular. The nominative is memoria….and qui is the nominative masculine…it does not look right to my tired brain.

    I would rewrite as follows:

    St. Gregorius Magnus Ecclesiae papa, quem hodie commemoramus, vita monastica inita, munere legati Constantinopoli functus est et, ad Sedem Romanam hac die tandem electus, et terrena composuit et sacra servus servorum curavit

    Am I right or even close?

  5. Federico says:

    I am tired…missed a word…should be …Ecclesiae papa et doctor..

    Time for bed…

  6. william says:

    Steve’s answer, of course. In each clause of that sentence, all the other gerundives agree with the word after in; there’s no good reason for this one not to, and it doesn’t really make a lot of sense having it “agreeing” with omnimodo (which is an adverb anyway).

  7. Andrew says:

    I don’t know grammar, but ‘in regendis, in subveniendo, in fovenda, in firmanda in propaganda’ – what’s missing here folks? The first one is plural (regendis) the rest are singular, but there is no inconsistency, is there? In subveniendo cui vel quibus? In subveniendo egenis. (egeni, egenorum, egenis, egenos, egenis) Quomodo eis subveniendo? Omnimodo. Makes sense to me.

  8. anonanon says:

    I wouldn’t say subveniendo is necessarily trying to agree with omnimodo. I suppose it’s possible to take it as a gerund rather than a gerundive, in which case egenis would be dative and the translation would still run something like “in providing aid to the needy in every way.” I’m not saying that it isn’t weird to have a random gerund in a string of gerundives, though, so it probably is a mistake.

  9. anonanon says:

    I wouldn’t say subveniendo is necessarily trying to agree with omnimodo. I suppose it’s possible to take it as a gerund rather than a gerundive, in which case egenis would be dative and the translation would still run something like “in providing aid to the needy in every way.” I’m not saying that it isn’t weird to have a random gerund in a string of gerundives, though, so it probably is a mistake.

  10. Angelo says:

    In line #8: “fovendo”.

    The text should read “favendo”
    (faveo,favi,fautum): to favour, be favourable

    “fovendo (foveo,fovi,foutum)
    to warm, to keep warm; esp. of a bird
    keeping warm its egg

  11. Berolinensis says:

    As I said: stylistically it would be preferable to have subveniendis, because that is what we have in the other cases of the enumeration. However, in this instance, if I remember my somewhat distant school grammar correctly, the gerundives are gerundives only in form, while materially (grammatically) they are gerunds; they assume the form of gerundives for stylistic reasons; hence, erudiendo is perfectly correct.

  12. Angelo says:

    Correction: Line #8 “fovenda”

  13. Berolinensis says:

    ahem…I meant subveniendo, not erudiendo, of course…I guess it’s time for bed for me, too.

  14. anonanon says:

    foveo can also mean “maintain” or “foster.”

    Also, I didn’t mean to step on any toes before, Berolinensis; guess I didn’t read all the preceding posts carefully enough.

    I wish Fr. Z would enlighten us about this error though … hehe

  15. william says:

    Anonanon is quite right that subveniendo isn’t “trying to agree with omnimodo“, but maybe the author chose to allow it to take on the termination of the adjacent word (by a sort of process of assimilation) – given that it can do so and still remain grammatically coherent! Presumably this is also why Fr Z was so cautious in saying “… [t]here might be a slight flaw …” (my italics).

  16. FrZ gave us this teaser in some previous year and I remember it well. If he has in mind the same possible “slight flaw” he had back then, none of the above responses has found it yet.

  17. The Black Friar says:

    Shouldn’t “electus” agree with “Gregorii” and be in the genitive case?

  18. The Black Friar says:

    I take that back. I think the “electus” is part of the relative clause and agrees with “qui”. But what about “vita monastica inita”? I suppose it’s supposed to be an “ablative absolute”, “monastic life having been begun”, but this is awkward because one could say it began considerably earlier with St Anthony of the Desert etc. The writer probably meant “having entered monastic life”, but that’s not what he wrote.

  19. The Black Friar says:

    How about “post vitae monasticae suum ingressus” as a quick alternative? I’m sure there are more elegant ways …

  20. The Black Friar says:

    Or how about “vitam monasticam amplectus” – “having embraced monastic life” – and thank the good Lord for deponent verbs!

  21. David Kubiak says:

    “Vita monastica inita” is perfectly good Latin (assuming an adjective “monasticus”); for the passive of the verb cf. Ovid, ‘Fasti’ 3.147: “veteres initi memorantur honores.” The reference is to St. Gregory himself, not the institution of monasticism.
    While students are taught that when the gerund takes an object it becomes the gerundive, the rule is by no means universal, and with neuter objects doesn’t apply at all. Verbs that take the dative are especially apt to have a retained object. “in egenis subveniendo” cannot be faulted.

  22. The Black Friar says:

    Or how about “vitam monasticam amplexus” – “having embraced monastic life” – and thank the good Lord for deponent verbs!

  23. Tiberius Odgen says:

    (Though it’s not how the Latin went, I just put in “We remember” to fill in a subject and a verb.)

    We remember Saint Gregory the Great, pope and Church doctor, who, having entered the monastic life, was engaged in the duty of a deputy of Constantinople. At last, having been chosen on this day for the Roman Throne, he both made peace between the lands and cared for the lowliest and detestable of slaves. Indeed, he made himself as a shepherd in matters of moral guidance, in coming to the aid of the needy by all means, in nurturing the monastic life, but mostly in encouraging, even propagating, the faith everywhere, wherefore he wrote an exceptional multitude of documents concerning moral as well as pastoral issues. However, he passed away on the twelfth of March.

  24. Tiberius Odgen says:

    (Though it’s not how the Latin went, I just put in “We remember” to fill in a subject and a verb.)

    We remember Saint Gregory the Great, pope and Church doctor, who, having entered the monastic life, was engaged in the duty of a deputy of Constantinople. At last, having been chosen on this day for the Roman Throne, he both made peace between the lands and cared for the lowliest and detestable of slaves. Indeed, he made himself as a shepherd in matters of moral guidance, in coming to the aid of the needy by all means, in nurturing the monastic life, but mostly in encouraging, even propagating, the faith everywhere, wherefore he wrote an exceptional multitude of documents concerning moral as well as pastoral issues. However, he passed away on the twelfth of March.

  25. Tiberius Odgen says:

    (Though it’s not how the Latin went, I just put in “We remember” to fill in a subject and a verb.)

    We remember Saint Gregory the Great, pope and Church doctor, who, having entered the monastic life, was engaged in the duty of a deputy of Constantinople. At last, having been chosen on this day for the Roman Throne, he both made peace between the lands and cared for the lowliest and detestable of slaves. Indeed, he made himself as a shepherd in matters of moral guidance, in coming to the aid of the needy by all means, in nurturing the monastic life, but mostly in encouraging, even propagating, the faith everywhere, wherefore he wrote an exceptional multitude of documents concerning moral as well as pastoral issues. However, he passed away on the twelfth of March.

  26. The Black Friar says:

    Err, do you work for ICEL, Tiberius?

  27. gengulphus says:

    Black Friar. “monastic life having been begun” – The writer probably meant “having entered monastic life”.
    This is in fact what he has written – it is an ablative absolute – but the verb is ineo (not initio).

  28. The Black Friar says:

    Yes, “inita” is the feminine singular ablative past participle of ineo (which can be translated as ‘begun’ in some contexts, by the way, as in ‘inito magistratu’, for example.) The past participle (except in the case of deponent verbs) is passive, of course, so, more literally, “religious life having been entered”. It’s years since I studied Latin, but it still looks odd to me here. It’s ablative, but not entirely absolute, since the meaning is that religious life was entered precisely by Gregory, and not entered in general, as it were. Certainly you can say “Urbe delata, imperator rediit” – “the city having been destroyed, the general returned” – even though the general was at the head of the destroying army, but not identical with it. here, though, it is only Gregory’s entering religious life that is being referred to, so it still seems to me to break the ‘absolute’ rule. That having been said, you can find plenty of examples of the rule being broken in classical Latin.

  29. RBrown says:

    The only flaw I can see is the aforementioned use of subveniendo rather than subveniendis.

    But I don’t think it’s merely stylistic simply because the phrases can be translated as gerundives. Thus:

    Although “in vita monastic fovenda” usually is translated as “in fostering the monastic life”, it could also be “in the monastic life, which needed to be fostered”.

  30. David Kubiak says:

    I tried to be diplomatic earlier, but in fact not only is the gerund possible, it is REQUIRED with verbs taking the dative.
    To write “in egenis subveniendis” is a solecism.

  31. Rob F. says:

    Et et.

    Remove the adjectival phrase “ad Sedem Romanam hac die tandem electus” and you have a double “et”. MS Word (Latin edition) would pick this one up.

  32. David Kubiak says:

    The multiplication of ‘et’s is not wrong either. The first one is the ordinary connective ‘and'; the next one is part
    of a pair, ‘both…and': ‘…and, finally on this day having been chosen for the Roman See, he both…and…’

  33. Andrew says:

    Sometimes the Latin “et” is used to mean “both this and that” as in “et istud, et illud”. So it makes perfect sense to say: et, ad Sedem Romanam electus, et terrena composuit et sacra curavit.” (and, elected to the Holy See, he both patched up some earthly matters and took care of some sacred ones).

  34. The Black Friar says:

    OK, Fr Z., we’ve had a good go at it… Please put us oout of our misery and tell us what the problem is!!!!

  35. The Black Friar says:

    Rob F., is there really a Latin edition of MS Word?

  36. The Black Friar says:

    While on the subject, I have a program called ‘Word Translator’ which, i its ‘demo’ version is free … and came with LATIN as the free demonstration. It’s main use for me is not the dictionary or translation function, but the very extensive grammatical ‘help’ file, which is easy to use and now goes everywhere my laptop goes … If anyone wants a copy, you can download it here: http://www.australia.op.org/texts/wtltteng.exe (This is a self-extracting file, about 3.3 Mb in size, for Windows operating systems.)

  37. RBrown says:

    I tried to be diplomatic earlier, but in fact not only is the gerund possible, it is REQUIRED with verbs taking the dative.
    To write “in egenis subveniendis” is a solecism.
    Comment by David Kubiak

    I agree on your first point–subvenire taking the dative is probably why it is in egenis subveniendo.

    But I don’t think writing in egenis subveniendis is a solecism simply because, as I noted above, the use of the gerundive form in these cases is not merely a matter of style. Even though we usually translate the verb form as a gerund (in helping the poor), it could also be translated as if the Latin were a gerundive (He showed himself a true pastor among the poor, who need to be helped).

    Egeni sunt subveniendi seems to me to have nothing wrong with it, and it could equally be “The poor need to be helped” or “They are the poor, who need to be helped”.

    Thus how to translate “He toiled among the poor, who needed to be helped”. To me it would be Laboravit in egenis subveniendis.

  38. Rob F. says:

    David Kubiak: “… Et et composuit et curavit” might not be sensu stricto a solecism, but it sounds off to me. I confidently assert that it “might be a slight flaw.”

    Black Friar: I know of no Latin edition of MS Word. I apologize for forgeting the emoticon from my comment :)

  39. Rob F. says:

    RBrown: The use of egenis subveniendis is a solecism because with only one exception the gerundive of an intransitive verb (and subvenire is intransitive) cannot modify any noun. The only exception is in the case of an impersonal subject, which is a neuter singular. “Subveniendum est”, “it is necessary to help”. In this case subveniendum modifies the unspoken impersonal “it”.