Pope Benedict’s Address on Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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Before quoting the Holy Father’s address on this great saint, we’d like to give some introductory information from the Catholic Exchange:

One historian wrote: “It is impossible to conceive what would have been the confusion, the lawlessness, the chaotic state of the Middle Ages without the medieval papacy; and of the medieval papacy, the real father is Gregory the Great.”

It wasn’t until he was in his mid-thirties that St. Gregory the Great became a monk. Gregory was born around the year 540 in Rome, Italy, to a wealthy family from whom two popes had come in the past. He was talented and respected, and was appointed to the civil position of prefect of Rome when he was about thirty-two years old. He soon sold his possessions, however, and turned his home into a Benedictine Monastery, becoming a monk around 575. He established six other monasteries in Sicily. He also became a missionary to England.

Gregory was appointed the pope’s representative to the imperial court in Constantinople (the residence of the emperor). He later returned to Rome and entered a monastery, though he continued to serve as a papal advisor. When the pope died in 590, Gregory, himself reluctant, was elected by unanimous acclamation as his successor on September 3, 590. He was ill throughout most of his pontificate, but Pope Gregory was an active and tenacious leader during a period troubled by famine and the invasion of Italy by the Lombards (a barbarian tribe).

…and with that in mind, we give you some of the Holy Father’s address on Pope Saint Gregory the Great, from Catholic Insight:

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…

Read the rest here.

Saint Gregory the Great, ora pro nobis!