Saint Spotlight Saint Gregory the Great

Feast Day: 3 September

Man of the Century

Pope Gregory I, commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was Bishop of Rome from 3 September 590 to his death. He is known for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregorian Mission, to convert the then largely pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Gregory is also well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope. A Roman senator's son and himself the prefect of Rome at 30, Gregory lived in a monastery he established on his family estate before becoming a papal ambassador and then pope. He was the first pope from a monastic background,and a talented administrator. During his papacy, his administration greatly surpassed that of the emperors in improving the welfare of the people of Rome.

"Here am I among you as one who serves." Luke 22:27

“John Paul radiated the larger-than-life aura that in the past led presidents, premiers and other statesmen to speak of a disabling awe in the face of a man at once so unpretentious and wise … In all he is truly a man of this century. It would be impossible to find another who has touched and been touched by so many of its great events.” So writes Jonathan Kwitny in the preface of his book, Man of the Century. If this is true of Pope John Paul in the twentieth century, an equally powerful claim can be made for the Pope whose life and personality marked the sixth century of the Christian era – Gregory the Great. This extremely talented and likeable man, at once brilliant and humble, made his mark in the great affairs of Church and State. Born in Rome in 540 AD, his first career was in politics as a Prefect to the city. In his mid-thirties he turned from politics to prayer, founding monasteries and himself becoming a monk. But his talents for leadership and administration were too well known for him to be left peaceful in his monastic home.

The Pope sent him as envoy to Constantinople for five years. Soon after his return, Gregory, himself, was elected Pope and ruled for thirteen years. He was responsible for sending missionaries to England, a task he had earlier desired to fulfil himself. He guarded and guided his people in times of famine, flood and foreign invasion. He wrote extensively on matters of scripture, morals and pastoral care. He was the impetus behind a renewal and enrichment of church liturgy and music. Gregorian chant takes its name from him.

Reflecting on his own life, Gregory remarked: ”The creator and redeemer of mankind can give me, unworthy though I be, the grace to see life whole and the power to speak effectively of it. It is for love of him that I do not spi}re myself in preaching him.” May the Lord continue to give to his Church, in its bishops and priests, and in each faithful follower of Christ, this grace to see life whole, and to speak effectively of it.

Adapted from the Living Word Saints and Feasts