By T.K. Wilson (Rated G)
Gregory the Great (Gregory I), pope and saint, was born during the 500s AD (the exact date is unknown). He came from a very prestigious family, being the great-great-grandson of Pope Felix the Third (who lived before celibacy was required of clergy) and the son of a senator. Gregory’s home was full of the work of the Church and the Word of God, so it likely surprised no one when he decided to become a monk. He started six monasteries on his Sicilian estates, and began preaching on various difficult books of the Bible including Job, Ezekiel, and Proverbs. He was truly happy as a monk and desired to live that way for the rest of his life, but this was not to be.
His wise management of the monasteries on his land and great skill in preaching did not go unnoticed. In 577, he was called to work in Rome and in 578, he was sent to Constantinople to gain help in fighting the invading Lombards. His mission in the East was a failure in that he didn’t get his troops, but it was effective in demonstrating it was time for Rome to stand up for herself, for there was no one else to help.
Upon his return to Rome, Gregory was thrust into a crisis: a huge flood had wiped out the food stores of the people, bringing famine and plague. Gregory, very unexpectedly and unwillingly elected Pope, started immediately organizing relief efforts. Once that was dealt with, he began reforming the church, getting rid of decadent priests and bishops, enforcing celibacy, and selling off the church’s assets for the poor.
He also started missionary efforts, with a special heart for the people of England. He defended the faith from Arminians, stamped out paganism, and required fair treatment for the Jews, who were allowed freedom to worship as they wanted; it is also speculated that he began the practice of composing Gregorian chant, but this is debated, as this innovation in church music might have been Gregory II’s doing.
In his mere 14 years as Pope, Gregory established the church firmly and on good ground. He died in 604, and was immediately named a saint by his grateful people.
May we all be as willing to do the Lord’s work, even if it isn’t what we want, as Gregory the Great!
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