St. Gregory the Great, September 3



Gregory the Great

Today’s the feast of St. Gregory the Great – the greatest of the popes, many say. He never thought of himself as great, though, he was concerned what to do in the troubled times he lived in. We usually recall saints on the day of their death or martyrdom, but Gregory’s remembered the day he became pope, September 3, 590, which I’m sure was a martyrdom for him.

Years ago, I lived across the street from Gregory’s home on the Celian Hill. On my way to school, I would peek through the ancient doors of the library of Pope Agapitus, a relative of Gregory’s, where archeologists were trying to learn  about what was once the largest Christian library in Rome. Barbarian tribes later plundered the place on their regular sweeps through the city.

These were bad times. Gregory was called from his monastery, not only to become pope, but to lead a city under siege. He never was a healthy man and he never had much support. Most of Rome’s leading families fled to safer parts; the imperial government relocated in Milan. The burden of the city and the church fell on him.

Called to a job he didn’t want, Gregory drew wisdom and strength from the scriptures, especially from figures like Job and Paul the Apostle, who taught him that strength can come to weak “earthen vessels” like himself.

In his Commentary on Ezechiel, which we read in today’s Office of Readings, Gregory describes what he went through. Like Ezechiel, he was appointed a watchmen in the city, supposed to go up to the heights and see what’s coming, but “I’m not doing this very well, ” Gregory said.

“I do not preach as well as I should nor does my life follow the principles I preach so inadequately.
“I don’t deny my guilt, I get tired and negligent. Maybe by recognizing my failure I’ll win pardon from a sympathetic judge. When I lived in the monastery I was able to keep my tongue from idle topics and give my mind almost continually to prayer, but since taking on my shoulders the burden of pastoral care, I’m unable to keep recollected, with my mind on so many things.

“I have to consider questions affecting churches and monasteries and often I have to judge the lives and actions of individuals; I’m forced to take part in certain civil affairs, then I have to worry about barbarians attacking and wolves menacing the flock in my care; I have to do my political duty to support those who uphold the law; I have to put up patiently with thieves and then I have to confront them, in all charity.

“My mind is torn by all the things I have to think about. Then I have to put my mind on preaching. How can I do justice to this sacred ministry?

“Because of who I am I have to associate with all kinds of people and sometimes I say too much. But if I don’t talk to them the weaker kind of people wont come near me, and then we wont have them when we need them. So I have to listen to a lot of aimless chatter.

“But I’m also weak myself and I can get drawn into gossiping and then find myself saying the same things I didn’t care to listen to before.

“Who am I — what kind of watchman am I? I’m not standing on the heights, I’m in the depths of weakness. And yet the creator and redeemer of all can give me, unworthy though I am, the grace to see life as it is and power to speak effectively of it. It’s for love of him that I do not spare myself in preaching him.”

You have to admire Gregory. He feels weak, but he’s a watchman caring for his city and his church. Weakness doesn’t prevent him from serving or being far-sighted. From the Celian Hill Gregory sent monks to England, to the ends of the world, to found the church there. On his tomb in the Vatican is the simple inscription that describes him so well. “Servant of the servants of God.”

Today, Mother Theresa’s community lives on the land where Gregory’s home once was, on the Celian Hill, next to the ancient church of Saints John and Paul. They say Gregory took in 12 poor people for a meal almost every day. The poor are still taken care of where he once lived.


Filed under Passionists, Religion

6 responses to “St. Gregory the Great, September 3

  1. Anne Immaculate

    May St. Gregory The Great pray for us.

  2. WeAreStrong in the Lord when we put on the armor of God!
    Gregory reminds me of that when he says,
    “…the creator and redeemer of all can give me, unworthy though I am, the grace to see life as it is and power to speak effectively of it. “

  3. Gail Smyder

    and there is HOPE for the rest of us. What would we do without our quiet daily prayer and HOW do we handle the busy things that sometimes draw us away–I think energized by that focus that begins our day and knowing left to ourselves — St. Gregory the Great, pray for us all.
    As always Fr. Victor you are right on., aware and bringing with you. When were you near St. Gregory’s home?? Be much blessed.

  4. Peeking in the ancient Library? I bet if you had knocked they would gladly have you come in and assist them. I see Gregory as a humble servant o the Lord.

  5. jim

    Gregory took in ten people,TODAY, IN ALL THEIR HOLY PLACES, they look for 10 people to pray, called a Minion , if they don’t have ten they will
    take a poor person off the street to complete the number to pray. When we include the poor, and that includes all people on the outside, our prayer becomes richer and deeper and much more pleasing to God. Go out ,
    go out, into the highways and byways and invite all to my wedding feast
    of love and forgiveness, Gregory did this, so should we.

  6. Berta

    In these times we can use more people like Gregory the Great! Many people love our Lord God and don’t feel adequate enough to go out and spread His word and His love. Those people need to be lured by us to do God’s work , just Like Pope Gregory was. Lord Jesus lure us with Your mercy and Your love. We need Your help!!!!

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