Feast of Saint Gregory the Great

Saint Gregory is certainly one of the most notable figures in Ecclesiastical history. He has exercised in many respects a momentous influence on the doctrine, the organization, and the discipline of the Catholic Church. To him we must look for an explanation of the religious situation of the Middle ages; indeed, if no account were taken of his work, the evolution of the form of medieval Christianity would be almost inexplicable. And further, in so far as the modern Catholic system is a legitimate development of medieval Catholicism, of this too Gregory may not unreasonably be termed the Father. Almost all the leading principles of the later Catholicism are found, at any rate in germ, in Gregory the Great.

Saint Gregory the Great

Gregory is said of grex, which is to say a flock; and of gore, which is to say a preacher. Then Gregory is to say as a preacher to an assembly or flock of people. Or it is said as a noble doctor or preacher. Or Gregory is to say in our language as awaked, for he awoke to himself, to God, and to the people, he awoke to himself by keeping of cleanness, to God by good contemplation, and to the people by continual predication. And by this is deserved the vision of God; and S. Austin saith, in the Book of Order, that he seeth God that well liveth, well studieth, and well prayeth. And Paul, the historiographer of the Lombards, writeth his history and life of him, the which John the deacon afterwards much diligently compiled and ordained.

S. Gregory was born of the parentage of senators of Rome, whose father was named Gordian and his mother Silvia. And when he had so much learned that he was a master in philosophy, and also was rich of patrimony, he thought that he would leave all the riches that he had, and would enter into religion for to serve God. But in this, that he put this thought in respite, he conceived another purpose, that was that him seemed he should better serve God in a secular habit, in doing the office of the pretoria of the provost of Rome, for to give to each man duly reason after the nght of his cause. But he found in this office so great secular business that it began to displease him, because by this great business he withdrew him over far from God. In this meanwhile his father and mother died, in such wise that he was rich of patrimony and puissant, that at the beginning he founded and endowed with rents six abbeys in Sicily, and the seventh he founded within the walls of Rome in the honour of S. Andrew the apostle, in the which he became a monk, and the remnant of his patrimony he gave for God's sake so that he that tofore went clothed in clothes of gold and of silk, and adorned with precious stones in the city, when he was monk served in a poor habit the monks. There was at the beginning of his conversation of so perfect a life that it might be said well that he was all perfect. He made great abstinences in eating, in drinking, in waking, and in praying, in so much that he was so travailed that unnethe he might sustain himself. He had put out of his heart all secular things so that his conversation was in heaven, for he had addressed all his desire for to come to the joy permanable.

S. Gregory made and ordained the song of the office of holy church, and established at Rome two schools of song, that one beside the church of S. Peter, and that other by the church of S. John Lateran, where the place is yet, where he lay and taught the scholars, and the rod with which he menaced them, and the antiphoner on which he learned them is yet there. He put to the canon of the mass these words: Diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab æterna damnatione nos eripi, et in electorum tuorum jubeas grege numerari. At the last when S. Gregory had been pope thirteen years, six months and ten days, he being full of good works, departed out of this world in the year of our Lord six hundred and six years, in the time when Phocas was emperor of Rome. Let us then pray to S. Gregory that he get us grace that we may amend so ourselves here in this life that we may come unto everlasting life in heaven. Amen.

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