To Barbara and Antonina 186 .
Gregory to Barbara, &c.
On receiving your epistles, I was in all manner of ways delighted to hear of your well being, and I entreat Almighty God that He would guard you by His protection from malignant spirits in thought, and from perverse men, and from all contrariety; and that He would, with the grace of His fear, settle you in unions worthy of you, and cause us all to rejoice in your settlement 187 . But do you, most sweet daughters, rest your hope on His help, and, being always under the shadow of His defence, both by praying and by well doing, escape the plots of bad men. For, whatever human comforts or adversities there may be, there are none, unless either His grace protects or His displeasure troubles you. Rest therefore your hope on no one among men, but bind your whole soul to trust in Almighty God. While we sleep, then, He will protect you, of whom it is written, Behold he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep (Psa. 121.4) 188 .
As to your saying that you are in haste to approach the threshhold of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, I wish exceedingly, and wait with fervent desire, to see you in his church united to husbands well worthy of you; that so both you may obtain some little comfort from me, and I no little joy from your presence. I have also commended your causes to thy most reverend brother the bishop John 189 , and to Romanus the guardian (defensori), that under God they may accomplish what they have begun.
Your present of two racanæ 190 , which you sent me word were your work, I accepted gladly. But yet know ye that I did not believe the word you sent me. For you are seeking praise from the work of others, seeing that you have perhaps never yet put hand to spindle. Nor yet does this circumstance distress me, since I wish you to love the reading of Holy Scripture, that, so long as Almighty God shall unite you to husbands, you may know how you should live and how you should manage your houses.
See above, Epp. XXXV., XXXVI., in this book, and I. 34, note 8, there referred to.86:187
If the marriage of the parents, Venantius and Italica, took place, as conjectured in the note to I. 34, in the eleventh Indiction (a.d. 592–3), and this letter was written in the fourth (a.d. 600–1), the daughters would not be more than seven or eight years of age. Still, even at this early age, their betrothal may have been contemplated with a view to their settlement in life. But Venantius may have married earlier than 592–3, soon after his return to a secular life, and so the girls may have been a little older. Neither, however, if our dates are right, could be more than ten years old.86:188
In English Bible, cxxi. 4.86:189
Viz. John, bishop of Syracuse. See above, Ep. XXXVI.86:190
On the meaning of this word, see XII., note 3.