St Gregory the Great
Celebrated on September 3rd
The icon above is in three parts - the centre panel shows Gregory as Pope, with the Holy Spirit in the form of the dove, guiding him as he guides the Church. The name “Gregory” means “One who watches the flock”. The right-hand panel shows Gregory in the Roman Forum, seeing the slaves from England , and saying ,“They are not Angles but angels.” an event which prompted him to seek to bring about the evangelisation of the people of England . The left-hand panel shows Saint Augustine and his companions crossing the English Channel, following the directions of Pope Gregory the Great. We give thanks for Saint Gregory the Great, and thank God for all that has happened as a result of his mission to England.
A pope and doctor , born in Rome in 540, St Gregory came from a patrician family and was for a time the chief civil magistrate of Rome. He became a monk when he was about 35, having given his wealth away to establish several monasteries.
From 579 to 585 he was the Pope’s agent at Constantinople. Five years after his return to his monastery he was elected Pope - the first monk chosen for the office.
His papacy lasted fourteen years, during which time, Gregory was tireless, energetic and charitable. He abolished fees for burials. He looked after those suffering from famine. He would not allow injustice to Jews. He wrote hymns. He also reformed church worship and introduced what is now called ‘Gregorian chant’.
Disregarding the right of the Byzantine emperor he made his own peace with the marauding Lombards and ransomed their prisoners.
St Gregory’s writings influenced the church for many centuries. More than 800 of his letters and sermons survive - among them a book on the office and duties of a bishop, which came to be used throughout Christendom, and was translated into English by King Alfred and a long commentary on the Book of Job.
St Gregory the Great has been called the father of mediaeval papacy, without which the early middle ages would have taken much longer to emerge from the chaos which followed the collapse of the Roman Empire.
He called himself: ‘The servant of the servants of God’ - a name that the Popes have used ever since.