Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 249
An anonymous cleric from Aquino (Italy) who is possessed by a demon is cured by Saint Benedict. Benedict warns him not to accept holy orders in the future. He disobeys him out of vanity and becomes possessed by the same devil once again, all in the first half of the 6th century. Account of Gregory the Great, "Dialogues", Rome, AD 593/594.
II 16.1-2
1. Eodem quoque tempore quidam Aquinensis ecclesiae clericus daemonio uexabatur, qui a uenerabili uiro Constantio, ecclesiae eius antistite, per multa fuerat martyrum loca transmissus, ut sanari potuisset. Sed sancti Dei martyres noluerunt ei sanitatis donum tribuere, ut quanta esset in Benedicto gratia demonstrarent. Ductus itaque est ad omnipotentis Dei famulum Benedictum, qui Iesu Christo Domino preces fundens, antiquum hostem de obsesso homine protinus expulit. Cui sanato praecepit, dicens: "Vade, et post haec carnem non comedas, ad sacrum uero ordinem numquam accedere praesumas. Quacumque autem die sacrum ordinem temerare praesumpseris, statim iuri diaboli iterum manciparis".
2. Discessit igitur clericus sanus, et sicut terrere solet animum poena recens, ea quae uir Dei praeceperat interim custodiuit. Cum uero post annos multos omnes priores illius de hac luce migrassent, et minores suos sibimet superponi in sacris ordinibus cerneret, uerba uiri Dei quasi ex longo tempore oblitus postposuit, atque ad sacrum ordinem accessit. Quem mox is qui reliquerat diabolus tenuit, eum que uexare, quousque animam eius excuteret, non cessauit.
(ed. de Vogüé 1979: 182-184)
II 16.1-2
1. At the same time [during the reigns of King Totila] a certain cleric from the church of Aquinum was possessed by a demon. He was sent by the venerable man Constantius, bishop from the same church to many places of martyrs so that he could be healed. However, God's martyrs were unwilling to give him the gift of health in order to show what great grace was in Benedict. He was led, therefore, to the servant of almighty God Benedict, who, praying to Lord Jesus Christ, at once expelled the old enemy from the possessed man.  He warned the healed one: "Go and do not eat meat, and do not dare to enter into holy orders. For on whatever day you will dare to pollute (temerare) the holy orders, you will immediately become subject of the law of the devil once again".
2. The cleric departed safe and sound, and since recent punishment usually terrifies the soul, he observed for a time what the man of God had commanded. But when after many years all older than him departed from this light, and he saw that he was surpassed by those younger to him who were in holy orders, he disregarded the words of the man of God, as if having forgotten them through length of time, and entered holy orders. Soon the same devil who [previously] had left him possessed him [once again] and did not cease to harass him till he tore out his soul.
(trans. Gardner 1911: 75-76; changed by J. Szafranowski)


Benedict of Nursia was active in the first half of the 6th century.
One may wonder why Benedict warned the cleric against ordination, most probably against assuming presbyterial office. There are several possibilities:
1. Even though the cleric was healed from demonic possession he remained polluted and his ordination would pollute (temerare) the holy orders.
2. If the cleric let himself be possessed, he was prone to sin and he could sin again, and therefore was unfit for the holy orders.
3. It could have been risky to ordain a "possessed", because of the fear that the state of energumens often improved only temporarily.

Place of event:

  • Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia
  • Aquino

About the source:

Author: Gregory the Great
Title: Dialogues, Dialogorum Gregorii Papae libri quatuor de miraculis Patrum Italicorum, Dialogi
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Gregory the Great wrote his Dialogues between 593 and 594 in Rome when he was the Bishop of this city. They were written in order to present lives and miracles of Italian saints, many of them contemporary to Gregory, and the greatest of them, saint Benedict of Nurcia. The Dialogues are divided into four books in which Gregory tells the stories of various saints to Peter, who was a deacon and a friend of Gregory, and is also known from the Gregory`s private correspondence.
Grégoire le Grand, Dialogues, ed. A. de Vogüé, Sources Chretiennes 251, 260, 265, Paris 1978-1980.


Former ecclesiastical career - Lower clergy
Functions within the Church - Urban presbyter
Described by a title - Clericus
Reasons for ordination - Personal ambition
Impediments or requisits for the office - Improper/Immoral behaviour
Administration of justice - Administration of justice
Relation with - Another presbyter
Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
Relation with - Monk/Nun
Devotion - Supernatural experience
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: J. Szafranowski, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER249,