vol 22, no. 321
God allows miracles to initiate conversions or test the faith of others. Yet God uses man to effect His miraculous wonders through those who have the faith to not fear the consequences because those totally faithful to God have absolute trust that God will not abandon them. Such a man was the holy Bishop Saint Gregory of Pontus or Neo Caesarea. He was given the name "Thaumaturgus" for he was indeed a miracle worker. The term "thaumaturgus" comes from the Greek word for 'wonder' and 'worker', hence the title for St. Gregory who never exhibited fear whenever he engaged unbelievers; so much so that his faith moved countless pagans to embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior through the true Faith St. Gregory professed, preached and lived. He was truly the Miracle Man.
Some things are impossible for God, such as containing or restraining His own generosity. When familiarizing ourselves with the lives of the Saints, we see that God is not content to hold back His rewards until we obtain the Beatific Vision, but rather, He bestows them upon His faithful during the course of their lives, as a foretaste to what is to come in eternity. Our Saint Gregory of Thaumaturgus, like all the Saints, grew in virtue, by detaching himself from the material world, and attaching himself to God, and His most holy will, alone. Consolations and the ability to perform miracles are not what the Saints, sought. God Himself was their sole desire. When we truly seek first the Kingdom of God, all else will be given to us, as our Lord states in Scripture.
Saint Gregory received the name of "Thaumaturgus" or "Worker of Wonders" because of his extraordinary miracles as we shall see in this account.
Our Saint met Origen and became enamored with his speech. This motivated him to go to a school where Origen taught courses that excited him about truth and made him enthusiastic about morality. Origen's teachings left Gregory wanting to think of nothing but God. When Origen was prevented from teaching for a time due to a persecution that broke out in the East, Gregory continued his studies in Alexandria. Due to his morals and virtue, his fellow students became jealous and believed he was insidiously condemning their behavior. For this, revenge became necessary, so they instructed a lady of the night to interrupt him while he was engaged in a godly conversation with some of his learned friends, asking him for money, which implied she had previously done him some favor. Gregory simply had one of his friends give her the money, to get rid of her, so he could continue with the conversation. I will quote what follows from Butler's, "Lives of the Saints":
This easy compliance (giving her the money - JG) made some of his friends suspect him guilty, and begin to reproach him: but God rewarded his patience and meekness by clearing his innocence; for no sooner had the strumpet received the money, but she was seized with an evil spirit, howled in a frightful manner, and fell down tearing her hair, foaming at the mouth, and staring with all the fury and distraction of a fiend. Gregory's charity prompted him to call upon God in her favour; and she immediately recovered. (S. Greg. Nyssen. in Vit. Greg)
Saint Gregory, after giving up his material goods and remaining alone for some time to talk with God and himself, became a Bishop. Around this time he committed to writing "the famous creed or rule of faith, concerning the mystery of the Holy Trinity". He had assistance:
One night, whilst St. Gregory was taken up in a profound meditation on the mysteries of our holy faith, a venerable old man appeared to him, and said he was sent by God to teach him the truth of the holy faith. A woman stood by, who appeared above the condition of what is human, and, calling the other by his name, John the Evangelist, bade him discover to the young man the mystery of the true religion. He answered that, seeing it was the desire of the mother of our Lord, he was ready to do it. He then delivered the doctrine by word of mouth, which Gregory committed to writing, and the vision immediately disappeared. (Butler's, "Lives of the Saints")
In Butler's, Lives of the Saints, we read that Saint Gregory of Nyssa attests that the people of Neocaesarea had assistance as well, from demons:
As the saint was returning from the city to the wilderness, a violent rain obliged him to take shelter in a heathenish temple, the most famous in the country, upon account of oracles and divinations delivered there. At his entrance he made the sign of the cross several times to purify the air, and then spent the night there with his companion in prayer, according to custom.
The next morning he pursued his journey, and the idolatrous priest performed his usual superstitions in the temple: but the devils declared they could stay there no longer, being forced away by the man who passed the last night there. After several vain attempts to bring those powers back, the priest hastened after the saint, threatening to carry his complaints against him to the magistrates and to the emperor. Gregory, without the least emotion, told him, that with the help of God he could drive away or call the devils when he pleased. When the idolater saw he disregarded all his menaces, and heard that he had a power of commanding demons at pleasure, his fury was turned into admiration, and he entreated the bishop, as a further evidence of the divine authority, to bring the demons back again to the temple. The saint complied with his request, and dismissed him with a scrip of paper, in which he had written, "Gregory to Satan: Enter." This being laid upon the altar, and the usual oblation made, the demons gave their answers as usual.
The priest, surprised at what he saw, went after the holy bishop, and begged he would give him some account of that God whom his gods so readily obeyed. Gregory explained to him the principles of the Christian faith, and finding the priest shocked at the doctrine of the incarnation, told him that great truth was not to be enforced by words or human reasoning, but by the wonders of the divine power. The priest hereupon pointing to a great stone, desired the saint to command that it should change its place to another, which he named. St. Gregory did so, and the stone obeyed, by the power of him who promised his disciples that by faith they should be able to remove mountains. The priest was converted by this miracle, and, forsaking his house, friends, and relations, resigned himself up to the instructions of divine wisdom.
The Wonder Worker healed the sick in body and soul. He built a church that remained erect, despite the persecutions and an earthquake that laid waste to the surrounding churches and buildings. This church was built only after our Saint instructed a rock, which was obstructing the construction, to yield, which it did.
Saint Gregory, surprising though it may be to the contemporary "Catholic", was against heresy and believed one must be Catholic in order to be saved:
The persecution of Decius breaking out in 250, St. Gregory advised his flock rather to save their souls by flying, than by abiding the fierce conflicts, to expose themselves to the danger of losing their faith; by which means, and by his zealous exhortation, not one amongst them fell. Setting them an example, he withdrew himself into the desert, accompanied only with the Gentile priest whom he had before converted, and who then served him in the office of deacon. The persecutors were informed that he was concealed upon a certain mountain, and sent soldiers to apprehend him. These returned, saying they had seen nothing but two trees; upon which the informer went again to the place, and finding the bishop and his deacon at their prayers, whom the soldiers had mistaken for two trees, judged their escape to have been miraculous, threw himself at the bishop's feet, and became a Christian, and the companion of his retreat and dangers.
The wolves despairing to meet with the shepherd fell with the fiercer rage upon that part of his flock which stayed behind, and seizing upon men, women, and children, who had any reverence for the name of Christ, cast them into prisons. St. Gregory in his wilderness saw in spirit the conflict of the holy martyr Troadius, a young man of distinction in the city, who, after a great variety of torments gained a glorious triumph by dying for the faith.
The persecution ending with the life of the emperor, in 251, Gregory returned to Neocęsarea, and soon after undertook a general visitation of the whole country, made excellent regulations for repairing the damage done by the late storm, and instituted solemn anniversary festivals, in honour of the martyrs who had suffered in the persecution. On a day devoted to the solemn worship of one of the heathen deities, the whole country flocked to the diversions at the theatre in Neocęsarea, and some of them finding the crowd troublesome, prayed that Jupiter would make room for them. This being told the holy bishop, he said, they should soon have no reason to complain for want of room.
At that time a dreadful pestilence broke out, which ravaged all Pontus. It was at length stopped in that part by the prayers of Gregory; upon which occasion most of the remaining infidels were converted to the faith. During the weak administration of the emperor Gallienus, the Goths and Scythians overran Thrace and Macedon, and passing into Asia burnt the temple of Diana, at Ephesus, and plundered Pontus and other countries, committing the most horrible disorders. In those times of confusion several Christians who had been plundered by the barbarians, plundered others in their turn, or purchased of the infidels their unjust booty. St. Gregory being consulted by another bishop concerning the penance which was to be enjoined for these crimes, wrote his canonical epistle, which holds an eminent rank among the penitential canons of the ancient church.
Before we continue with the account, let me share that I once asked a traditional Catholic if he really believed in "finder's keepers". He said, "Yes, if it is on the ground, it is mine." I did not think to ask what they thought about the loser's who weep as a result - "loser's weepers", and I refrained from the sarcasm that would suggest that furniture, cars, and houses are on the ground. But I did try to stress that stealing is when we take something that is not ours. Money on the ground, even if it be a penny, is not ours, same if it is in a vending machine.
I am not sure how a penny's worth of Purgatory time would feel, or how long it would last, but I would want to avoid it if I could. The only way to have stealing, when it is a mortal sin, forgiven, is to confess, be truly sorry, not intending to do it again, do your penance, and to make restitution (if this is impossible, to give it to the poor). If this is not done, that sin will not be forgiven, even if the Priest pronounces the words of absolution in the Confessional. A good Priest, will make it clear that this must be done before pronouncing the words of absolution.
Those who fear they have taken some small change that did not belong to them, and fear the temporal punishment that will result, should give more than what they thought they have taken to the poor, if these be reasonably possible, and confess it. In case you believe I am making a mountain out of a molehill please read the continuation of the account, which the paragraph interrupted:
In it he says: "Let no one deceive himself under the pretence of having found a thing; it is not even lawful to make use of that which we find.- If in the time of peace it is not lawful to advantage ourselves at the expense of a brother, or even of an enemy who neglects what belongs to him through carelessness: how much less at the expense of an unfortunate person who leaves it, through necessity, in order to fly from enemies? Others deceive themselves in keeping what belongs to another because they have found it in the place of their own. Thus because the Borades and Goths exercise hostilities against them, they become Borades and Goths to others."
He adds: "They who (in restoring what they have found) fulfill the commandment of God, ought to do it without any secular views, without making any demand, either as having discovered, or saved, or found a thing, or any other pretence whatever." Which maxim of justice is excellently inculcated by St. Austin. St. Gregory Thaumaturgus mentions the distinct orders of penitents, as the hearers, the prostrati, &c.
It is quite possible that those who left their change in a machine or let it drop to the ground will retrace their steps in the hopes of retrieving it. The first time, and thereafter, you leave money where you find it; you will feel good about it. Of course you could pick it up and take it to the police and trust them to do the right thing with it.
I will close the account of our wonderful Saint with the closing of Butler himself, who sums up how truth is distorted or ignored by those whose pride leads them to love themselves, more than anything else, and embraced by those whose humility leads them love God, and His Truth, more than anything else:
The greatest geniuses which the world ever produced, men the most penetrating, the most judicious, the most learned, and at the same time the most sincere, the most free from all bias of interest or passions, the most disengaged from the world, whose very sanctity and perfect victory over pride and all the passions of the human mind was the most visible miracle of divine grace, and the prodigy of the world, are venerable vouchers of the truth of the divine revelation of the Christian religion, and of the evident miracles by which it was confirmed and established. Their testimony is the more unexceptionable, as they maintained it in the most perfect spirit of humility, meekness, and charity, and in opposition to every view of pride and all human interest.
Yet, if we believe modern freethinkers, their party alone is that of good sense, and in proportion as a man is endowed with better understanding, and a more sublime genius, the more he is inclined to religious scepticism and incredulity. But they attempt in vain by an overbearing impudence, impertinence, and ridicule, to bring the faith of a divine revelation into contempt, and too visibly betray, that pride or other base passions have corrupted their hearts; whence arise these clouds which darken their understanding. Let them impartially examine into the causes of their error, and they will find that they accuse and shut their eyes to the clearest light, because it condemns them, and that they turn infidels because it is the interest of their vices to be so. Let them correct the irregularities of their own hearts, and bring to the inquiry sincere simplicity, and a teachable mind: then all their difficulties will immediately vanish, and the evidence of the divine revelation will appear manifest.
The most monstrous absurdities, evident falsehoods, glaring inconsistencies, and wretched sophistry, which we meet with in almost every line or rather word of their most boasted writings, suffice to prove how much it is in spite of reason that they declaim, and how ridiculous their claim to it is. A submission to divine revelation authentically manifested to us, in the judgment of all who impartially consider its triumphant motives, to the eyes of reason will always appear to be the most just and glorious use that man can make of his reason.
Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, God's humble servant, ora pro nobis.
"Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH" Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373
John Gregory's FAITHFUL TO TRADITION Thursday, November 17, 2011,
Volume 22, no. 321