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Monday, September 02, 2013

Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Early Church Father and Doctor of the Church



Pope Saint Gregory the Great (also known as Gregory I; Gregory Dialogos; Father of the Fathers) was born in 540 A.D., at Rome, Italy. Saint Gregory is a Latin Father of the Church, and Doctor of the Church. He is also one of the four Traditional Doctors of the Latin Church (along with Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and Saint Jerome). 

Gregory was the son of a wealthy Roman senator and Saint Silvia of Rome. He also was the nephew of Saint Emiliana of Rome and Saint Tarsilla, and the great-grandson of Pope Saint Felix III. Gregory was educated by the finest teachers in Rome. He was prefect of the city of Rome for one year, then he sold his possessions, turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome, and he entered the Benedictine Order, where he was a monk. He was appointed cardinal-deacon, and then sent to the Byzantine court to secure aid against the Lombards. The result of his six year sojourn was a conviction that Rome must not rely on the East for help. 

After his return he saw English children being sold in the Roman Forum, and he wanted to become a missionary to England. The people of Rome would not allow him to leave. His desire was realized when he sent Saint Augustine of Canterbury, with a band of missionaries to England in 590.

Gregory was elected 64th Pope by unanimous acclamation on September 3, 590, and was the first monk to be chosen as pope. With his election to the papacy, he published a work on episcopal duties, which was used for centuries. He enforced the celibacy of the clergy, and supervised church funds. Although he strengthened the prerogatives of the papacy by demanding supreme authority over all churches, judging bishops, and hearing the complaints of prelates, he was always tactful in dealing with secular authority. 

He established the system of appeals to Rome, and is recognized as an administrator and lawyer. Gregory collected the melodies and plain chant so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chant. He also sent missionaries to France, Spain, and Africa. Gregory wrote some very influential works on the Mass and Office.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great died of natural causes on March 12, 604 at Rome, Italy.  

Below are a collection of quotations by Pope Saint Gregory the Great from homilies, writings, and prayers by him:


When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice. – Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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If we knew at what time we were to depart from this world, we would be able to select a season for pleasure and another for repentance. But God, who has promised pardon to every repentant sinner, has not promised us tomorrow. Therefore we must always dread the final day, which we can never foresee. This very day is a day of truce, a day for conversion. And yet we refuse to cry over the evil we have done! Not only do we not weep for the sins we have committed, we even add to them. -– Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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If we are, in fact, now occupied in good deeds, we should not attribute the strength with which we are doing them to ourselves. We must not count on ourselves, because even if we know what kind of person we are today, we do not know what we will be tomorrow. Nobody must rejoice in the security of their own good deeds. As long as we are still experiencing the uncertainties of this life, we do not know what end may follow...we must not trust in our own virtues. – Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. – Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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When Mary Magdalen came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: “The disciples went back home,” and it adds: “but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.” We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tell us: “Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.” -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great from a homily

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It is only right, with all the powers of our heart and mind, to praise You Father and Your Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Dear Father, by Your wondrous condescension of Loving-Kindness toward us, Your servants, You gave up Your Son. Dear Jesus You paid the debt of Adam for us to the Eternal Father by Your Blood poured forth in Loving-Kindness. You cleared away the darkness of sin by Your magnificent and radiant Resurrection. You broke the bonds of death and rose from the grave as a Conqueror. You reconciled Heaven and earth. Our life had no hope of Eternal Happiness before You redeemed us. Your Resurrection has washed away our sins, restored our innocence and brought us joy. How inestimable is the tenderness of Your Love!

We pray You, Lord, to preserve Your servants in the peaceful enjoyment of this Easter happiness. We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with God The Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great from an Easter Prayer by him

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Our fatherland is paradise, heaven. We have departed from it by pride, disobedience, abuse of the senses, therefore it is needed that we return to it by obedience, contempt of the world, and by taming the desires of the flesh; thus we return to our own country by another road. By forbidden pleasures we have forfeited the joys of paradise, by penance we must regain them. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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Don't be anxious about what you have, but about what you are! -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great from a homily

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Perhaps it is not after all so difficult for a man to part with his possessions, but it is certainly most difficult for him to part with himself. To renounce what one has is a minor thing; but to renounce what one is, that is asking a lot. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.

Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvellous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great From a HomilyOn Saint Thomas the Apostle

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The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle, and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practices what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works. Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind's eye. In it we see our inner face. From the Scriptures we can learn our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joy. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great