3rd September 2020
'Justice must be accompanied by humility'
Pope Gregory the Great
Act in such a way
that your humility may not be a weakness,
nor your authority be severity.
Justice must be accompanied by humility,
that humility may render justice lovable.'
Pope Gregory 1.
Today the church celebrates Pope Gregory 1,
generally called Pope Gregory the Great,
who is known as one of the four greatest
Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
He was born around 540 AD,
the son of a Roman Senator,
after his father's death he went into politics
and eventually became Mayor of Rome.
But the Christian life called him
and in 574 he entered the priesthood.
On the death of Pope Leo,
in 590, Gregory was elected to succeed him;
the first monk ever to be elected
as Successor of St Peter.
He was a humble man
and wanted nothing more than to be a simple monk
but after much struggling and prayer
he finally realised that
this was his calling,
from God, accepted the position.
At the time Gregory became Pope Italy was a chaos,
ravaged by both famine and plague.
He was a gifted administrator,
taking over the affairs of both church
and society, spiritual and civic;
and appointed governors to the various Italian cities.
He did much to alleviate
the sufferings of the poor,
of which there were many,
even inviting twelve of them
to dine with him each evening.
He saw the role of the papacy as
the rock on which a new spiritual empire
and civilised order could be built
and worked to achieve that objective.
He was a prolific writer,
more on a spiritual and practical level
than concentrating on doctrine and theory.
He also wrote about the life of his role model,
St Benedict and other saints of that period.
He was devoted to church liturgy
and promoted sacred music.
The plainsong that comes from this period
is famously known as the 'Gregorian Chant'.
There is a famous story about Pope Gregory
before he became pope.
It is said that seeing some fair-haired English boys
in a slave market in Rome, he said,
'Not Angles, but angels.'
The English Catholics took particular interest
in Gregory because he was the one
who sent St Augustine to Kent in 597 AD
to bring Roman Christianity to a country
whose Celtic Christianity
did not recognise the supremacy of Rome
and where paganism still flourished.
Crippled by arthritis at the end of his life,
Gregory died in Rome in 604 AD
and was buried in the basilica of St Peter.
Although a great leader of reform,
Gregory was the first pope to call himself
'Servant to the servants of God.';
he was recognised immediately as a saint.
His was a life of service
and a close relationship with God;
he was a wise well-loved leader.
He once made the observation
'Wisdom is born of wonder.'
We can learn much
from this great saint about humility,
leadership and serving our communities
through God's gifts to us.
How do we use our gifts
in the service of others?