Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
St. Gregory the Great was born around the year 540 in Rome. At around the age of 34 he gave up his family wealth to found six monasteries and became a monk himself. He had very little time to enjoy life of the monastery, because in 579 he was sent to Constantinople to act as the pope’s ambassador for six years. Upon his return to Rome he became an abbot.
Around this time he met some visitors to Rome from England. This meeting inspired Gregory with the desire to become a missionary to England. With the pope’s permission he began the journey north, but shortly afterwards he was captured and brought back by the Romans who were unwilling to part with him.
In 590, St. Gregory was selected to become the next pope. Although he did not seek this responsibility (there are even some stories about his attempt to flee Rome after finding out about his election), Gregory did exercise his new responsibilities heroically. He sent missionaries from Rome to England to establish the Catholic Church there. He exhausted the papal treasury in his support of the poor. St. Gregory is noted for his insistence on the pope’s position of authority in the Church, and at the same time for his respect of the legitimate jurisdiction of his brother bishops. He went to his eternal reward in 604.
St. Gregory offers us an example of one who sought to serve the Church according to its needs more than his own wants. He sacrificed his monastic solitude, missionary hopes, and all else the Lord asked of him. May we each be given such a generosity of heart in the Lord’s service.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.