Feast Day of St. Gregory the Great – March 12

Saint Gregory the Great, Pope (Francisco Goya, 1746–1828)

Pope Gregory I, was a man of many virtues and accomplishments. Credited for organizing the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, He also reached many through his prolific writings, more than any of his papal predecessors. During his papacy, his considerable administrative skills significantly improved the welfare of the Roman people.

In the the Middle Ages, Gregory was referred to as “the Father of Christian Worship” because of his devotion to the improvement of the Divine Liturgy. Pope Gregory was instrumental in the standardization of Western Plainchant, later renamed Gregorian chant in honor of his work and dedication.

Gregory was born in the city of Rome, around the year 540. His was a Patrician Roman family, wealthy and with close connections to the church. His father, Gordianus, served as a senator and for a time Prefect of the City of Rome. His mother, Silvia, and two paternal aunts attained sainthood, and his great-great-grandfather was Pope Felix III, making Saint Gregory’s family the most distinguished clerical dynasty of the time.

While contemporaries and historical biographers referred to him as Pope Gregory the Great (Magnus), he called himself “servant of the servants of God.” He lived a devout life, punctuated by humility and sensitivity of spirit in spite of a long list of human accomplishments. Plagued throughout life with chronic illness, he never allowed physical pain to interfere with the plan to which God called him. Not even imminent death deterred his sacred work.

Before he was thirty, Saint Gregory was made prefect of Rome but resigned the office after five years. He subsequently founded six monasteries on his Sicilian estate and served as a Benedictine monk at his home in Rome. An ordained priest, he became one of the pope’s seven deacons and served six years as a papal representative in Constantinople. He was then called home to become abbot, and at the age of fifty was elected pope. In spite of great secular and religious success, he stated that his happiest years were those spent as a simple monk, a beloved calling he sacrificed to serve God.

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