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The Pastoral Rule of St. Gregory the Great

Who is Gregory the Great?

Brief chronology
He was born at Rome about 540. Gregory’s father was Gordianus, a wealthy patrician, probably of the famous gens Anicia. His mother, Sylvia, is honoured as a saint and two of his aunts have been canonized. As was customary for youth of his social class, he undertook a political career, completing studies in Legal Studies and Grammar. Subsequently he gave up political life and became a monk, converting his palace on the Caelian Hill into a monastery (St. Andrew) and adopting the Benedictine Rule.

In 579 he was called by Pope Pelagius II and ordained deacon and sent to Constantinople. On his return the Pope made him his councilor.

In 590, after the death of Pope Pelagius II, he was elected Pope, with great consent from the people as well. He dedicated himself to his city – Rome at the time suffered with plague and hunger, but even more significant was his “political” work in stopping the expansion of the Longobards and supporting Queen Theodolinda against the Arian heresy in the East. He was instrumental in the Christianization of the present England.
He was the author of many other reforms, including reforms of the Roman liturgy and sacred song.

He died at Rome in 604.


The Works of St. Gregory the Great
* Commentary on Job. 35 books. “Encyclopedia” on every aspect of the Christian life.
* The Rule for Pastors. A “manual” of Christian pedagogy, acutely psychologically.
* Dialogues, 4 books. A collection of the lives and miracles of Italian saints from the V and VI centuries. It includes the first biography of St. Benedict.
* Sermons on the Gospels. 40 homilies to people in the first years of his pontificate.
* Sermons on Ezekiel. 22 homilies given during the invasion of the Longobards in Rome.
* Letters. Some 850 have survived from his Papal Register of letters. This collection is the first complete collection of letters by a Pope. It serves as an invaluable primary source for these years.

Other minor works:
* Commentary on the Song of Songs
* Commentary on the First Book of the Kings


Translated from: Tracce N 10, novembre 2004


What is the Pastoral Rule?



The Book of the Pastoral Rule, commonly known in English as “Pastoral Care”, is a treatise on the responsibilities of the clergy written by Pope Gregory the Great around the year 590, shortly after his papal inauguration. The text was addressed to John, the bishop of Ravenna, as a response to a reprimand on his part for having wanted to escape from the responsibilities of the Pontificate. He seeks to give moral justification for this flight which is the presupposition and the background from which the construction of the Rule takes its origin. Gregory seems to be saying that he feels strongly the contrast between what we are called to be and unfortunately what we are. Aware of what we are, the tendency is to refuse what we pray we want to be, not so much because it’s too hard, but because we don’t feel worthy. This fear, - the consciousnesses of weakness, inadequate instrument, deaf matter which resists form and ideal, - is Gregory’s doubt and perplexity. But this very fear is the strength, the ethical value, the aesthetic moment from which the “Rule” has its origin, such a Gregorian creature, for the Shepherd of Souls.



The holiness of Gregory the Pastor is identified with the Pastor of the Rule. The Rule can be defined as the attempt to construct the pastor of souls

Part one addresses the question of "who" should take on the pastoral rule in the Church. He points out the difficulties and the burdens. Talks about the “requirements”, the conditions that make a real Pastor and the other side of the medal: that is, the defects and vices that must never be present and must be avoided.

Part Two is dedicated to the life of the Pastor. In it he discusses the "lift" of the Pastor, and the moral qualities he must have.

Part Three addresses "How the ruler, while living well (righteously), ought to teach and admonish those that are put under him." There are 36 Admonitions which instruct the pastor how to deal with people.

Part Four of the Pastoral Rule is a very brief chapter on the importance of self examination on the part of the pastor. Here is found a long discourse on virtues including humility.


Translated from: S. Gregorio Magno - LA REGOLA PASTORALE - Edizioni Paoline, 1978

Presentazione, pp. 5-13.


The Pastoral Rule

Complete text of the Pastoral Rule


St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

St. John Chrysostom


Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd - Pastorelle Sisters