Friday, September 3, 1999
Friday September 3:
Feast of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church
First Reading: Colossians 1: 15-20
Psalms: Psalm 100: 1-5
Gospel Reading: Luke 5: 33-39
POPE SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, 64th SUCCESSOR OF PETER, RELIGIOUS AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
The same barbarian ransacking that Augustine faced in the early 400's revisited in the early 600's while Pope Saint Gregory the Great was guiding Holy Mother Church as the 64th successor of Saint Peter. Born in Rome in 540 to a Roman Senator, Gregory began his career following in the footsteps of his father by becoming prefect of Rome from 573-578. After the death of his father, Gregory gave it all up for God. He gave everything he had to an assortment of monasteries, building six monasteries in Sicily and even turned his own palatial home in Rome into a monastery. In 579 Pope Pelagius II ordained Gregory a deacon, sending him as an emissary to Constantinople amid the opulence in the court of the Emperor there. But Gregory disdained these perks, opting to continue living the monastic way of life while still carrying out his duties. In 586 Pope Pelagius recalled him to Rome where Gregory was given the position of abbot of St. Andrew's Monastery, while performing the full time duties of the Holy Father's Secretary. It was an important step in his grooming for four years later he was chosen to succeed Pelagius who had died from the plague on February 7, 590. Seven months later on September 3, 590 Gregory became Pope. This Benedictine was the first monk in the history of the Church to be elevated to pontiff and continued his contemplative ways while still maintaining a busy, active schedule as the leader of his people, calling himself the "Servant of the servants of God." His first official act was forming penitential processions to the seven churches in Rome to petition God to end the deadly plague ravaging the city. Gregory's and the people's prayers were answered as the plague was diminished. Gregory knew this from the vision he received of an angel in a castle at the Vatican which, from that time on, became Castel Sant'Angelo near the river Tiber. During his fourteen year reign Gregory reaffirmed the civil authority of the pope, thus beginning the "temporal power." He was a pope who called for great reform within the Church unifying her with disciplinary measures necessary to expand the mission of the Church. That mission included England, France, Spain and Africa where he sent numerous missionaries to evangelize the true faith. Gregory was creative and original in his administration as Pope and his actions became the benchmark for how the Holy Father would rule from the Vatican to the entire world. He became an ideal role model for priests, bishops, religious and lay people throughout the world. Gregory also revised the Sacramentary and the liturgy of the Mass, introducing chants in the Mass which would become the celebrated Gregorian Chant. He was given the moniker "Great" seven hundred years later by Pope Boniface VIII and was proclaimed one of the great Doctors of the Church along with Saints Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine...all from the same era of the early centuries. Like our Holy Father Pope John Paul II today, the Canticle of Mary responsory proclaims that "Gregory put into practice all that he preached so that he might be a living example of the spiritual message he proclaimed."