Tag Archives: St Gregory the Great

Saint Gregory the Great

St Gregory sends monksWe honor the great pope known as Gregory.

“Among the pontiffs who showed that requisite concern [for the liturgy], particularly outstanding is the name of St. Gregory the Great, who made every effort to ensure that the new peoples of Europe received both the Catholic faith and the treasures of worship and culture that had been accumulated by the Romans in preceding centuries. He commanded that the form of the sacred liturgy as celebrated in Rome (concerning both the Sacrifice of Mass and the Divine Office) be conserved. He took great concern to ensure the dissemination of monks and nuns who, following the Rule of St. Benedict, together with the announcement of the Gospel illustrated with their lives the wise provision of their Rule that ‘nothing should be placed before the work of God.’ In this way the sacred liturgy, celebrated according to the Roman use, enriched not only the faith and piety but also the culture of many peoples. It is known, in fact, that the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.”

— Pope Benedict XVI
Summorum Pontificum, 7/7/07

Saint Gregory the Great

Gregory the GreatSaint Gregory the Great (540-604) is a Church father, founder of monasteries, and pastor of souls. The Church benefitted by Gregory’s vision of taking the Gospel to the margins. Gregory’s personal witness to the evangelical vows was demonstrated by his living as a simple monk who showed concern for those on the margins; he had a purity of heart in the midst of his new ministry’s numerous responsibilities as the Roman Pontiff. Pope Gregory set as his first priority the service of those who were considered the last in the diocese. Besides his significant contribution to the organization of sacred music Gregory is remembered for his writings, his commitment to the praying with Scripture in lectio divina and his love of Benedictine monasticism. What we know about Saint Benedict, for instance, comes from Saint Gregory.

Benedetto Calati has this reflection on Gregory who is great:

The community of faith is a hermeneutic criterion of the Word of God. “Often, many things in holy Scripture that I was not able to understand on my own,” Gregory said courageously to his brothers, “I understood when I found myself among my brothers. After I realized this, I also tried to understand by whose merit such knowledge had been given to me.” What is even more surprising is that, for Gregory, every member of God’s people who obeys the Word is “an organ of truth” for his or her brothers and sisters in the faith. “When we who are filled with faith try to make God resound for others, we are organs of truth, and truth has the power to reveal itself to other people through me, or to reach me through other people.” Gregory’s humble discretion with regard to the action of the Spirit, and the Word whom he obeys, generates a model of Church leadership that is expressed in the formula, “Gregory, servant of the servants of God.”

Good works nourish the heart



“Every day you provide your bodies with good to keep them from failing. In the same way your good works should be the daily nourishment of your hearts. Your bodies are fed with food and your spirits with good works. You aren’t to deny your soul, which is going to live forever, what you grant to your body, which is going to die.”

Saint Gregory the Great


Saint Gregory the Great

St Gregory, popeWhen the Church prays the Mass and the Divine Office today we’ll ask God to hear in the “intercession of Pope Saint Gregory, [to] endow, we pray, with a spirit of wisdom those to whom you have given authority to govern, that the flourishing of a holy flock may become the eternal joy of the shepherds.”

We rely on Saint Gregory’s intercession in a big way today.

We are reminded by Pope Saint Gregory that “The only true riches are those that make us rich in virtue. Therefore, if you want to be rich, beloved, love true riches. If you aspire to the heights of real honor, strive to reach the kingdom of Heaven. If you value rank and renown, hasten to be enrolled in the heavenly court of the Angels.”

Gregory (540 – 604) was born in Rome and was a civil servant, the usual path for a man of an aristocratic family; he became Rome’s Prefect.

In time, Gregory became a monk and then he founded a monasteries in Rome and in Sicily. As a deacon he was sent as an envoy to Constantinople.

History tells us that Gregory was the first monk –likely to be living the Rule of Benedict– to be elected Pope. His papacy was reform-minded when it came to property, service, concern for the poor and marginalized, the Church’s liturgical life, including sacred music. You can say that Gregory had a working relationship with people in tension with the Church, especially the Barbarians threatening the peace of peoples.

Beside his prodigious intellectual and social work, Gregory ought to be remembered in a significant way for setting the course of evangelizing the English peoples when he sent Augustine and his monks to England in 596.

Rogation Days

rogation procession 2012.jpg

Just before Ascension Thursday, there are three days of prayer asking God to bestow his blessing on creation, particularly the on farms that produce the food we need for nourishment. We call these days minor Rogation Days, in comparison to the major Rogation Day is observed on April 25. “Rogation” comes from the Latin rogare, to ask, as in, to ask for God’s mercy, His blessings, His continued benevolence upon all creation. Whether major or minor days of asking, Christians have been doing this type of prayer since the time of Saint Gregory the Great (the major day) and Saint Mamertus (the minor days). This is good example of how we Christians connect trust and confidence in God and the work of human hands on the earth.

A Catholic sense of ecology always includes prayer and not merely a commitment to a green ideology. All of our thinking and acting is informed by our prayer, work and prayer, faith and reason. From a gesture of gratitude we give thanks to the Lord for the beauty of the earth. The key biblical passages prayed come from Psalm 69, Jeremiah 10-11: 1-16, James 5:16-20 and Luke 11:5-14.

In the Northeast we don’t see too much of Rogation Day observances with Mass, litanies and processions. Sad to see so little done in this area since there are lots of working farms here and it would be a good thing to make supplication to God. In the Midwest can be experienced. Farmers, gardeners, agricultural professionals and others, gather to pray for all who work on the land, for a favorable planting, growing, and harvesting season, and for safety and protection from natural disasters.

Some of the Benedictine monasteries will attend to Rogation Days in collaboration with the local pastor or bishop. In 2012, the Benedictine Sisters of St Benedict Monastery (Ferdinand, IN) for example, had a procession that went from their monastery to the local parish with Bishop Charles C. Thompson, bishop of the Diocese of Evansville. Offices of Catholic Rural Life in certain dioceses ought to be attentive to this ancient form of prayer.

Some places to read further: here and here (with a very good history of the Rogation Day practice).

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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