Memorial of St. Gregory the Great

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St. Gregory the Great

Not many children can say that they were born into a family that had produced two popes, but Gregory (c.540-604) must have grown up knowing his illustrious heritage. He seemed to be following the path to power. His father was a wealthy senator, and young Gregory studied law. When he was 30, he became the mayor of Rome.

He served in the post for a year, and, in that year, everything changed. Gregory took his fortune and divided it in two. One half he gave to the poor and the other half he used to build monasteries. He built six monasteries in Sicily and a seventh in Rome. Gregory entered this last one, the Benedictine Monastery of St. Andrew. By the age of 35, Gregory had left power behind and put on the coarse robes of a monk.

Gregorian chant, testifies to his love of music.

But, when Pope Pelagius died, Gregory was chosen pope by the unanimous consent of both the priests and the people. Like Ambrose of Milan, he was called forth. He embarked on the work that made him, along with Leo I, one of only two popes to earn the title “Great.” His preferred title was “the servant of the servants of God.” You can better understand his devotion to the life of a good shepherd when you read his Rule for Pastoral Care.

St. Gregory

Gregory established a school for church musicians, and the plainchant that bears his name, Gregorian chant, testifies to his love of music. He wrote a great number of works, including a commentary on the Book of Job. He assembled the first lectionary and wrote many of the prayers for use at Sunday Mass. The historian Bede writes that the Christian mission to England began when Gregory came across young Anglo-Saxon slaves being sold in the markets of Rome and was to pity by their plight. He sent Augustine of Canterbury to this far away land and kept up a steady correspondence with him. Gregory faced foreign invasions of Rome, as well as periods of famine and disease. He must have longed for the peace of his monastery, but he served with such wisdom and brilliance, that, along with Augustine, Jerome and Ambrose, he is counted as one of the four Latin Doctors, or teachers, of the ancient church.

– Melissa Musick