Feast of St Gregory the Great
History has only bestowed the name Great on two popes, Leo, who was pope in AD451 at the Council of Chalcedon, and Gregory who was pope from this day in AD590 til his death in March 604. Gregory was from the Roman nobility and was prefect of the city before he joined a monastery and became a monk. He enjoyed the life of a monk, particularly, as he said later, because he could spend his time reflecting on God and in prayer.
However, when a new pope was needed, Gregory was called forth from the monastery and made bishop of Rome. There are a couple of things that we get from Gregory that still very much apply to us today: the first is Gregorian chant, the way of singing psalms and hymns in such a haunting and beautiful way that they touch the very centre of our being.
The second is a saying that applies very much to us today. Gregory lived just after the demise of the Roman Empire and he writes in his works that he has to deal with the barbarians who have come to sack the city. Rome is no longer a power in the world. To a large extent the city is depopulated, civil life has all but broken down and there is no infrastructure left to speak off.
Christianity was all but dead in Europe, Ireland being the only stronghold of the faith left. Gregory sent a monk name Augustine, who became known as Augustine of Canterbury to England, to renew the faith in that land, and with several other missionary works Gregory ensured the faith remained alive.
Gregory once said, when all seemed to despair, “The end of civilization does not mean the end of the world.”
Such a saying has great resonance with us today. Civilization appears to be falling apart around us, but the world will go on and God shall triumph in the end.