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The Deeds of Wiprecht


Afterwards Wiprecht, soon to be the founder of the monastery of Pegau, felt remorse in his heart—while God himself, who calls those whom He predestines, took pity. However late, Wiprecht at last turned inward toward himself, and before the eyes of his own mind he recalled which and how many bad things he had done: namely, how often he had plundered other people's things; how many men he had afflicted with slaughter, fire, and pillage; how many he had deprived not only of their resources, honours, treasures and towns but also of life itself.
Recalling all these things, Wiprecht groaned in his heart and in all earnestness beseeched Him, without whom human frailty has no strength at all, to guide his counsel. Oh, how effective always is the judgment pronounced from the mouths of the saints—or rather from the Holy Spirit—such that wherever iniquity is abundant, grace is more abundant. Undoubtedly summoning himself more inwardly, he was resuscitated from the deadly habit of vice. And with the divine voice penetrating the hardness of his heart of stone, Wiprecht was reminded to go forth outwardly for confession and penance. He took himself in complete devotion of spirit to [Archbishop] Hartwig of Magdeburg and [Bishop] Werner [of Merseburg]. He revealed to them the enormity of his guilt and his desire to render satisfaction. To such men, who knew how to heal the sicknesses of souls, he revealed himself as ready to render satisfaction in every way, according to their judgment and as far as he was able. These men, to be sure, although they did not lack confidence that they would be able to correct him by their authority and opinion, nevertheless, for the sake of easing for him the form of his penance a little bit—which they judged best—persuaded him with flattery to go to the threshold of the blessed apostles, Rome, and to the feet of the lord pope. Wiprecht, not delaying at all, was disinclined to go there heavily laden. Therefore, taking little with him, he arrived at Rome, as he had been counselled. There, prostrate on the ground, he watered the threshold of the apostles, which he had previously defiled with blood, with the tears of true penance. Afterwards, the opportunity granted him, he was brought to the feet of the lord pope, to whom he confessed with the highest devotion, in sequence, the reason for his journey and the enormity and the foulness of his sins. Then, by the authority of his predecessors the pope, most splendid in his knowledge of the true and salvific medicine, most insightful in showing moderation in penance, and having first offered certain words for compelling more diligently a compunction to repentance, sent him to the patriarch of the Spanish, a man of apostolic authority and admirable (even to the pope himself) on account of the merit of his life. That is to say, having consulted more privately, the pope counselled Wiprecht to mention to him the heavier labour of that trip or some need of an obstacle, with God arranging it. He also counselled Wiprecht to comply with all of the patriarch’s commands and advice. And so, Wiprecht hastened to the patriarch with ardent desire, and made fully known to him the things he had done thus far in his neighbourhood. The patriarch imposed penance on him—from ecclesiastical, not his own, judgment—measured in accordance with the magnitude of his crimes, and taking care lest by chance he run in vain. Not as a harsh overseer of a fellow servant but as a neighbour with compassion, with these salvific admonitions the patriarch instructed the spirit of the one in danger, who was hastening to race back to the harbour of salvation by his own rowing: 'Concerning those publicly penitent in our times, we indeed fear to pre-judge whether they be penitents or more like jokers—those who, after they are received in the church as reconciled, pretend to alter their former life. But because true justice lies not in beginning but in persevering, most beloved son, consider why you have travelled such a great distance. For the lord pope was able to give you—nay rather ought to give you more appropriately than I—remission of sins. But he wanted to test your patience with the labour of such a great journey, so that, having reaped the benefit of your perseverance, you may now receive from me a more relaxed measure of penance. Therefore, to your love I declare this advice most efficacious and salutary: redeem your sins through alms, which are strong enough to extinguish them completely, just like water on fire. As for the rest, if the means are abundant, construct at your own expense a temple to God, whose servant a good will ought to be, for the veneration of the blessed James, whose basilica you burned down. Also, bring together there as many servants of God as you judge yourself able, according to the Lord’s precept: make the poor your friends from the wealth of iniquity. Let these men preserve the order of the rule’s observance, so that, when you have departed from the present life, with constant prayers they will bring it about that you are worthy to be received in the heavenly abode.' To this Wiprecht said: 'If your paternity judges it sufficient, I can establish a monastic cell suitable for six brothers and can spend whatever might meet their needs.' Prudently resisting, the patriarch said to him: 'Those who sow sparingly, also reap sparingly. And he who will spend in cheerfulness and abundance, will also receive abundantly. Because maintaining the rule’s observance in every way will not be possible among so few, if you are in any way able, add the same number of others to these [i.e., six plus six]—for together they will more easily be strong in monastic order. Just as greater diseases need greater medicine, so too do greater rewards follow heavier labours.' Since Wiprecht promised himself ready to do everything he could, with God working with him and granting life, the patriarch gave him relics, namely the knee of St. James. Then he dismissed him, reconciled to the church, with the remission of his sins and a blessing.