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Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Life of St. Gregory the Great, pope


St. Gregory the Great, pope
Born: c.540
St. Gregory the Great, pope
Died: March 12, 604
Canonized: 604
Feast Day: September 3
Patron Saint of: musicians, students, teachers
Pope Gregory I (Latin: Gregorius I) (c. 540 – 12 March 604), better known in English as Gregory the Great, was pope from 3 September 590 until his death.  Gregory is well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope.
He “… 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. (F.H. Dudden, "Gregory the Great", 1, p. v).”
“Gregory's father was Gordianus, a wealthy patrician, probably of the famous gens Amicia, who owned large estates in Sicily and a mansion on the Caelian Hill in Rome, the ruins of which, apparently in a wonderful state of preservation, still await excavation beneath the Church of St. Andrew and St. Gregory.  His mother Silvia appears also to have been of good family, but very little is known of her life. She is honoured as a saint, her feast being kept on 3 November. Portraits of Gordianus and Silvia were painted by Gregory's order, in the atrium of St. Andrew's monastery, and a pleasing description of these may be found in John the Deacon (Vita, IV, lxxxiii).
                “Besides his mother, two of Gregory's aunts have been canonised, Gordianus's two sisters, Tarsilla and Æmiliana, so that John the Deacon speaks of his education as being that of a saint among saints. 
 “Of his early years we know nothing beyond what the history of the period tells us.   Between the years 546 and 552 Rome was first captured by the Goths under Totila, and then abandoned by them; next it was garrisoned by Belisarius, and besieged in vain by the Goths, who took it again, however, after the recall of Belisarius, only to lose it once more to Narses.   
“Of his education, we have no details. Gregory of Tours tells us that in grammar, rhetoric and dialectic he was so skilful as to be thought second to none in all Rome, and it seems certain also that he must have gone through a course of legal studies. Not least among the educating influences was the religious atmosphere of his home. He loved to meditate on the Scriptures and to listen attentively to the conversations of his elders, so that he was "devoted to God from his youth up".
 “Gregory had a deep respect for the monastic life. He viewed being a monk as the 'ardent quest for the vision of our Creator.  'His three paternal aunts were nuns renowned for their sanctity.  However, after the two eldest passed away after seeing a vision of their ancestor Pope Felix, the youngest soon abandoned the religious life and married the steward of her estate. Gregory's response to this family scandal was “many are called but few are chosen."  Gregory's mother Silvia herself is a saint.  On his father's death, he converted his family villa suburbana, located on the Caelian Hill just opposite the Circus Maximus, into a monastery dedicated to the apostle Saint Andrew.   After his death it was rededicated as San Gregorio Magno al Celio.  
In his life of contemplation, Gregory concluded that “in that silence of the heart, while we keep watch within through contemplation, we are as if asleep to all things that are without."   Gregory was not always forgiving, or pleasant for that matter, even in his monastic years.  For example, a monk lying on his death bed confessed to stealing three gold pieces.  Gregory forced the monk to die friendless and alone, then threw his body and coins on a manure heap to rot with a curse, “Take your money with you to perdition”.   Gregory believed that punishment of sins can begin, even on one's deathbed.  Eventually, Pope Pelagius II ordained him a deacon and solicited his help in trying to heal the schism of the Three Chapters in northern Italy.   However, Italy was not healed until well after Gregory was gone.
He became Pope in 590.  During his pontificate, Gregory is credited with re-energizing the Church's missionary work among the non-Christian peoples of northern Europe.   He is most famous for sending a mission, often called the Gregorian mission, under Augustine of Canterbury, prior of Saint Andrew's, where he had perhaps succeeded Gregory, to evangelize the pagan Anglo-Saxons of England. The mission was successful, and it was from England that missionaries later set out for the Netherlands and Germany.   The preaching of the Catholic faith and the elimination of all deviations from it was a key element in Gregory's worldview, and it constituted one of the major continuing policies of his pontificate. 
 In his official documents, Gregory was the first to make extensive use of the term "Servant of the Servants of God" (servus servorum Dei) as a papal title, thus initiating a practice that was to be followed by most subsequent popes.[41]
 Throughout the Middle Ages he was known as “the Father of Christian Worship” because of his exceptional efforts in revising the Roman worship of his day.
                He is also known as St. Gregory the Dialogist in Eastern Orthodoxy because of his Dialogues.   For this reason, English translations of Orthodox texts will sometimes list him as "Gregory Dialogus".  He was the first of the popes to come from a monastic background.  Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and one of the Latin Fathers.  He is considered a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, and some Lutheran churches. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized in 604, by popular acclaim.  The Protestant reformer, John Calvin, admired Gregory and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the last good pope.  He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.
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. (F.H. Dudden, "Gregory the Great", 1, p. v).
“Pope Saint Gregory the Great not only saved the Church, in times so frightful that the men who lived in them were sure that the end of the world was come, but he founded the great civilization which has lasted down to our day and of which we are part, Western Civilization. All alone, in the midst of famine and pestilence, floods and earthquakes, endangered by Greeks and barbarians alike, and abandoned by the Emperor, Pope Gregory, frail and ailing in body but strong and undaunted in spirit, succored and saved his people, his city, his country, and the whole of Christendom.” 
Sacramentaries directly influenced by Gregorian reforms are referred to as Sacrementaria Gregoriana. With the appearance of these sacramentaries, the Western liturgy begins to show a characteristic that distinguishes it from Eastern liturgical traditions.  In contrast to the mostly invariable Eastern liturgical texts, Roman and other Western liturgies since this era have a number of prayers that change to reflect the feast or liturgical season; these variations are visible in the collects and prefaces as well as in the Roman Canon itself.
“Gregory's mind and memory were both exceptionally receptive, and it is to the effect produced on him by these disasters that we must attribute the tinge of sadness which pervades his writings and especially his clear expectation of a speedy end to the world.”
Gregory is commonly accredited with founding the medieval papacy and so many attribute the beginning of medieval spirituality to him.[44] Gregory is the only Pope between the fifth and the eleventh centuries whose correspondence and writings have survived enough to form a comprehensive corpus. Some of his writings are:
·         Sermons (forty on the Gospels are recognized as authentic, twenty-two on Ezekiel, two on the Song of Songs)
·         Dialogues, a collection of miracles, signs, wonders, and healings including the popular life of Saint Benedict[45]
·         Commentary on Job, frequently known even in English-language histories by its Latin title, Magna Moralia
·         The Rule for Pastors, in which he contrasted the role of bishops as pastors of their flock with their position as nobles of the church: the definitive statement of the nature of the episcopal office
·         Copies of some 854 letters have survived, out of an unknown original number recorded in Gregory's time in a register. It is known to have existed in Rome, its last known location, in the 9th century. It consisted of 14 papyrus rolls, now missing. Copies of letters had begun to be made, the largest batch of 686 by order of Adrian I. The majority of the copies, dating from the 10th to the 15th century, are stored in the Vatican Library.
                                        http://catholicism.org/gregory-great.htm
                                        http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06780a.htm