Thought for the Day – 3 September – The Memorial of St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) Father & Doctor of the Church “Father of the Fathers” “Servant of the Servants”
Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Homily – General Audience – 4 June 2009
St Pope Gregory the Great “Servant of the Servants” “Servus Servorum Dei”
“Probably the most systematic text of Gregory the Great is the Pastoral Rule, written in the first years of his Pontificate. In it, Gregory proposed to treat the figure of the ideal Bishop, the teacher and guide of his flock. To this end he illustrated the seriousness of the office of Pastor of the Church and its inherent duties. Therefore, those who were not called to this office may not seek it with superficiality, instead those who assumed it without due reflection necessarily feel trepidation rise within their soul. Taking up again a favourite theme, he affirmed that the Bishop is above all the “preacher” par excellence; for this reason he must be above all an example for others, so that his behaviour may be a point of reference for all. Efficacious pastoral action requires that he know his audience and adapt his words to the situation of each person – here Gregory paused to illustrate the various categories of the faithful with acute and precise annotations, which can justify the evaluation of those who have also seen in this work a treatise on psychology. From this one understands that he really knew his flock and spoke of all things with the people of his time and his city.
Nevertheless, the great Pontiff insisted on the Pastor’s duty to recognise daily his own unworthiness in the eyes of the Supreme Judge, so that pride did not negate the good accomplished. For this the final chapter of the Rule is dedicated to humility : “When one is pleased to have achieved many virtues, it is well to reflect on one’s own inadequacies and to humble oneself, instead of considering the good accomplished, it is necessary to consider what was neglected”.All these precious indications demonstrate the lofty concept that St Gregory had for the care of souls, which he defined as the “ars artium”, the art of arts. The Rule had such great and the rather rare, good fortune to have been quickly translated into Greek and Anglo-Saxon.
He wanted to be – and this is his expression – “Servus Servorum Dei”. Coined by him, this phrase was not just a pious formula on his lips but a true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ made Himself our servant. He washed and washes our dirty feet. Therefore, he was convinced that a Bishop, above all, should imitate this humility of God and follow Christ in this way.
His desire was to live truly as a monk, in permanent contact with the Word of God but for love of God he knew how to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulation and suffering. He knew how to make himself the “servant of the servants”. Precisely because he was this, he is great and also shows us the measure of true greatness.”
St Pope Gregory the Great, “Servant of the Servants”, Pray for Us!
Quote/s of the Day – 3 September – The Memorial of St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) – Father & Doctor of the Church “Father of the Fathers”
“If we knew at what time we were to depart from this world, we would be able to select a season for pleasure and another for repentance. But God, who has promised pardon to every repentant sinner, has not promised us tomorrow. Therefore we must always dread the final day, which we can never foresee. This VERY DAY is a day of truce, a day for conversion. And yet we refuse to cry over the evil we have done! Not only do we not weep for the sins we have committed, we even add to them…”
“Don’t be anxious about what you have, but about what you are!”
“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”
“The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.”
“He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps.”
“He truly believes who puts what he believes into practice.”
There is more joy in heaven over a converted sinner than over a righteous person standing firm. A leader in battle has more love for a soldier who returns after fleeing and who valiantly pursues the enemy, than for one who never turned back but who never acted valiantly either. A farmer has greater love for land which bears fruitfully, after he has cleared it of thorns, than for land which never had thorns but which never yielded a fruitful harvest.”
“The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage— and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joy.”
“No one does more harm in the Church than he who has the title or rank of holiness and acts perversely.”
St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604)
Father & Doctor of the Church
“Father of the Fathers”
One Minute Reflection – 3 September – Today’s First Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 – Monday of the Twenty-second week in Ordinary Time, Year B & the Memorial of St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) – Father & Doctor “Father of the Fathers”
…”my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”…1 Corinthians 2:4-5
REFLECTION – “Holy Scripture presents a kind of mirror to the eyes of the mind, so that our inner face may be seen in it. There we learn our own ugliness, there our own beauty. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection.”….St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604)
PRAYER – God our Father, Your rule is a rule of love, Your providence is full of mercy for Your people. Through the intercession of St Gregory, grant the spirit of wisdom and understanding in Your Word through Your Son Jesus Christ. Grant that by the light of His Resurrection we may know our eternal home and strive to attain eternal joy there with You. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 3 September – The Memorial of St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) – Father & Doctor “Father of the Fathers”
Prayer of Praise St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604)
It is only right,
with all the powers of our heart and mind,
to praise You Father
and Your Only-Begotten Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ.
by Your wondrous condescension
of loving-kindness toward us, Your servants,
You gave up Your Son.
You paid the debt of Adam for us
to the Eternal Father by Your Blood
poured forth in loving-kindness.
You cleared away the darkness of sin
by Your magnificent and radiant Resurrection.
You broke the bonds of death
and rose from the grave as a Conqueror.
You reconciled heaven and earth.
Our life had no hope of eternal happiness
before You redeemed us.
Your Resurrection has washed away our sins,
restored our innocence and brought us joy.
How inestimable is the tenderness
of Your Love!
Saint of the Day – 3 September – St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) – Father & Doctor of the Church – “Father of the Fathers” – Pope, Prefect of Rome, Monk, Abbot, Writer, Theologian, Teacher, Liturgist, Administrator, Diplomat, Political Negotiator, Apostle of Charity and Social Justice, Apostle of Pastoral Ministry, PeaceMaker.
Pope Benedict’s Catechesis on St Pope Gregory the Great
Today I would like to present the figure of one of the greatest Fathers in the history of the Church, one of four Doctors of the West, Pope St Gregory, who was Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604 and who earned the traditional title of Magnus/the Great. Gregory was truly a great Pope and a great Doctor of the Church!
He was born in Rome about 540 into a rich patrician family of the gens Anicia, who were distinguished not only for their noble blood but also for their adherence to the Christian faith and for their service to the Apostolic See. Two Popes came from this family : Felix III (483-492), the great-great grandfather of Gregory and Agapetus (535-536). The house in which Gregory grew up stood on the Clivus Scauri, surrounded by majestic buildings that attested to the greatness of ancient Rome and the spiritual strength of Christianity. The example of his parents Gordian and Sylvia, both venerated as Saints and those of his father’s sisters, Aemiliana and Tharsilla, who lived in their own home as consecrated virgins following a path of prayer and self-denial, inspired lofty Christian sentiments in him.
In the footsteps of his father, Gregory entered early into an administrative career which reached its climax in 572 when he became Prefect of the city. This office, complicated by the sorry times, allowed him to apply himself on a vast range to every type of administrative problem, drawing light for future duties from them. In particular, he retained a deep sense of order and discipline: having become Pope, he advised Bishops to take as a model for the management of ecclesial affairs the diligence and respect for the law like civil functionaries . Yet this life could not have satisfied him since shortly after, he decided to leave every civil assignment in order to withdraw to his home to begin the monastic life, transforming his family home into the monastery of St Andrew on the Coelian Hill. This period of monastic life, the life of permanent dialogue with the Lord in listening to His word, constituted a perennial nostalgia which he referred to ever anew and ever more in his homilies. In the midst of the pressure of pastoral worries, he often recalled it in his writings as a happy time of recollection in God, dedication to prayer and peaceful immersion in study. Thus, he could acquire that deep understanding of Sacred Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church that later served him in his work.
But the cloistered withdrawal of Gregory did not last long. The precious experience that he gained in civil administration during a period marked by serious problems, the relationships he had had in this post with the Byzantines and the universal respect that he acquired induced Pope Pelagius to appoint him deacon and to send him to Constantinople as his “apocrisarius” – today one would say “Apostolic Nuncio” in order to help overcome the last traces of the Monophysite controversy and above all to obtain the Emperor’s support in the effort to check the Lombard invaders. The stay at Constantinople, where he resumed monastic life with a group of monks, was very important for Gregory, since it permitted him to acquire direct experience of the Byzantine world, as well as to approach the problem of the Lombards, who would later put his ability and energy to the test during the years of his Pontificate. After some years he was recalled to Rome by the Pope, who appointed him his secretary. They were difficult years – the continual rain, flooding due to overflowing rivers, the famine that afflicted many regions of Italy as well as Rome. Finally, even the plague broke out, which claimed numerous victims, among whom was also Pope Pelagius II. The clergy, people and senate were unanimous in choosing Gregory as his successor to the See of Peter. He tried to resist, even attempting to flee but to no avail, finally, he had to yield. The year was 590.
Recognising the will of God in what had happened, the new Pontiff immediately and enthusiastically set to work. From the beginning he showed a singularly enlightened vision of realty with which he had to deal, an extraordinary capacity for work confronting both ecclesial and civil affairs, a constant and even balance in making decisions, at times with courage, imposed on him by his office.
Abundant documentation has been preserved from his governance thanks to the Register of his Letters (approximately 800), reflecting the complex questions that arrived on his desk on a daily basis. They were questions that came from Bishops, Abbots, clergy and even from civil authorities of every order and rank. Among the problems that afflicted Italy and Rome at that time was one of special importance both in the civil and ecclesial spheres – the Lombard question. The Pope dedicated every possible energy to it in view of a truly peaceful solution. Contrary to the Byzantine Emperor who assumed that the Lombards were only uncouth individuals and predators to be defeated or exterminated, St Gregory saw this people with the eyes of a good pastor and was concerned with proclaiming the word of salvation to them, establishing fraternal relationships with them in view of a future peace founded on mutual respect and peaceful coexistence between Italians, Imperials and Lombards. He was concerned with the conversion of the young people and the new civil structure of Europe – the Visigoths of Spain, the Franks, the Saxons, the immigrants in Britain and the Lombards, were the privileged recipients of his evangelising mission. Yesterday we celebrated the liturgical memorial of St Augustine of Canterbury, the leader of a group of monks Gregory assigned to go to Britain to evangelise England.
The Pope – who was a true peacemaker – deeply committed himself to establish an effective peace in Rome and in Italy by undertaking intense negotiations with Agilulf, the Lombard King. This negotiation led to a period of truce that lasted for about three years (598-601), after which, in 603, it was possible to stipulate a more stable armistice. This positive result was obtained also thanks to the parallel contacts that, meanwhile, the Pope undertook with Queen Theodolinda, a Bavarian princess who, unlike the leaders of other Germanic peoples, was Catholic deeply Catholic. A series of Letters of Pope Gregory to this Queen has been preserved in which he reveals his respect and friendship for her. Theodolinda, little by little was able to guide the King to Catholicism, thus preparing the way to peace. The Pope also was careful to send her relics for the Basilica of St John the Baptist which she had had built in Monza and did not fail to send his congratulations and precious gifts for the same Cathedral of Monza on the occasion of the birth and baptism of her son, Adaloald. The series of events concerning this Queen constitutes a beautiful testimony to the importance of women in the history of the Church. Gregory constantly focused on three basic objectives: to limit the Lombard expansion in Italy, to preserve Queen Theodolinda from the influence of schismatics and to strengthen the Catholic faith and to mediate between the Lombards and the Byzantines in view of an accord that guaranteed peace in the peninsula and at the same time permitted the evangelisation of the Lombards themselves. Therefore, in the complex situation his scope was constantly twofold: to promote understanding on the diplomatic-political level and to spread the proclamation of the true faith among the peoples.
Along with his purely spiritual and pastoral action, Pope Gregory also became an active protagonist in multifaceted social activities. With the revenues from the Roman See’s substantial patrimony in Italy, especially in Sicily, he bought and distributed grain, assisted those in need, helped priests, monks and nuns who lived in poverty, paid the ransom for citizens held captive by the Lombards and purchased armistices and truces. Moreover, whether in Rome or other parts of Italy, he carefully carried out the administrative reorganisation, giving precise instructions so that the goods of the Church, useful for her sustenance and evangelising work in the world, were managed with absolute rectitude and according to the rules of justice and mercy. He demanded that the tenants on Church territory be protected from dishonest agents and, in cases of fraud, were to be quickly compensated, so that the face of the Bride of Christ was not soiled with dishonest profits..
Gregory carried out this intense activity notwithstanding his poor health, which often forced him to remain in bed for days on end. The fasts practised during the years of monastic life had caused him serious digestive problems. Furthermore, his voice was so feeble that he was often obliged to entrust the reading of his homilies to the deacon, so that the faithful present in the Roman Basilicas could hear him. On feast days he did his best to celebrate the Missarum sollemnia, that is the solemn Mas, and then he met personally with the people of God, who were very fond of him, because they saw in him the authoritative reference from whom to draw security – not by chance was the title Consul Dei quickly attributed to him. Notwithstanding the very difficult conditions in which he had to work, he gained the faithful’s trust, thanks to his holiness of life and rich humanity, achieving truly magnificent results for his time and for the future. He was a man immersed in God – his desire for God was always alive in the depths of his soul and precisely because of this he was always close to his neighbour, to the needy people of his time. Indeed, during a desperate period of havoc, he was able to create peace and give hope. This man of God shows us the true sources of peace, from which true hope comes. Thus, he becomes a guide also for us today.
Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, Wednesday 28 May 2008
More about Gregory here: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/saint-of-the-day-3-september-st-pope-gregory-the-great-540-604-father-doctor-of-the-church/
Prayer to Saint Gregory, Pope and Confessor for the Universal Church and for Pope Francis
O invincible defender of Holy Church’s freedom,
Saint Gregory of great renown,
by that firmness you showed
in maintaining the Church’s rights
against all her enemies,
stretch forth from heaven your mighty arm,
we beseech you, to comfort her
and defend her in the fearful battle
she must ever wage with the powers of darkness.
May you, in a special manner,
give strength in this dread conflict,
to the venerable Pontiff Francis,
who has fallen heir not only to your throne
but likewise to the fearlessness of your mighty heart.
Obtain for him the joy of beholding
his holy endeavours crowned by the triumph of the Church
and the return of the lost sheep into the right path.
Grant, finally, that all may understand,
how vain it is to strive against that faith,
which has always conquered
and is destined always to conquer –
“this is the victory which overcomes the world, our faith.”
This is the prayer that we raise to you with one accord
and we are confident, that,
after you have heard our prayers on earth,
you will one day call us to stand with you in heaven,
before the eternal High Priest,
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns, world without end.
St Aigulphus of Lérins
St Ambrose of Sens
St Ammon of Heraclea
Bl Andrew Dotti
St Basilissa of Nicomedia
Bl Brigida of Jesus
St Chrodegang of Séez
St Frugentius the Martyr
Bl Guala of Brescia
Bl Herman of Heidelberg
St Mansuetus of Toul
St Martiniano of Como
St Natalis of Casale
St Regulus of Rheims
St Sandila of Cordoba
Martyrs of Aquileia – 4 saints: Four young women, variously sisters and cousins, who were born to the nobility, the daughters of the pagans Valentinianus of Aquileia and Valentius of Aquileia. Each woman converted and made private vows, dedicating themselves to God. They were arrested, tortured and martyred by order of Valentius for becoming a Christian. We know little else but their names – Dorothy, Erasma, Euphemia and Thecla. They were martyred by beheaded in the 1st century in Aquileia, Italy and their bodies were thrown into a nearby river.
Martyrs of Nagasaki – 6 beati: A group of priests and clerics, native and foreign, murdered together in the anti-Christian persecutions in Japan. They were scalded in boiling water and then burned alive on 3 September 1632 in Nishizaka, Nagasaki, Japan and Beatified on 7 May 1867 by Pope Pius IX.
• Anthony Ishida
• Bartolomé Gutiérrez Rodríguez
• Francisco Terrero de Ortega Pérez
• Gabriel Tarazona Rodríguez
• Jerome of the Cross de Torres
• Vicente Simões de Carvalho
Martyrs of Seoul – 6 saints: A group of Christian lay people martyred together in the persecutions in Korea. They were beheaded on 3 September 1839 at the Small West Gate, Seoul, South Korea and Canonised on 6 May 1984 by Pope John Paul II.
• Agnes Kim Hyo-Ch’u
• Barbara Kwon Hui
• Barbara Yi Chong-hui
• Ioannes Pak Hu-jae
• Maria Pak K’Un-agi
• Maria Yi Yon-hui
Martyred in the Spanish Civil War:
• Blessed Andrea Calle González
• Blessed Concepción Pérez Giral
• Blessed Dolores Úrsula Caro Martín
• Blessed Joaquim Balcells Bosch
• Blessed Pius Salvans Corominas