Pope St. Gregory I, "the
b. circa 540 d. 604
Pope from 3 Sept 590 to 12 Mar 604
Gregory the Great was the second to be called "the Great,"
and he was the first pope to have been a monk. He was one of
the most influential writers for the papacy. He was a junior
deacon at the time of Pelagius II's death, yet he was elected
unanimously. He immediately wrote the emperor to withhold his
approval for his election, which was then required. The
emperor did not withhold his approval, and so when the imperial mandate
arrived, Gregory accepted consecration as Bishop of Rome under
a vigorous promoter of monasticism and of the liturgy, especially
music. His name is forever associated with plainsong chant.
For a more
detailed biography, read the account by Sr.
Catherine Goddard Clark, M.I.C.M., of the Slaves of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary, from which is excerpted the following:
Every day, he fed at his own table twelve poor
pilgrims, whom he insisted on serving himself. We are told that
one day when he entered the dining room he saw not twelve men, but
thirteen. He inquired of his steward why there was an extra guest,
but the astonished steward maintained that they had only the usual
"I am sure I see thirteen!" the Pope
As the meal progressed, Saint Gregory noticed that
the countenance of one of his guests kept changing from time to
time. Now he would find himself looking into the face of a
handsome young man, and again his gaze would fix itself on the
same face become suddenly old and venerable. When he could stand
the mystery no longer, Pope Gregory drew the strange man aside.
"What is your name?" he asked him.
"Do you not remember," his
guest replied, "the merchant who came to you one day at Saint
Andrew's Monastery and told you that he had lost all his
possessions in a shipwreck, and whom you gave twelve pieces of
money and the silver dish which was your treasured remembrance of
your beloved mother? I am the merchant to whom you gave your
mother's dish. Rather, I am the angel whom God sent to you to
prove your charity. Now, do not fear," he added, seeing Saint
Gregory's trembling amazement, "it is for the alms of that
silver dish that God has given you the Chair of Saint Peter. And
behold, God has sent me to be your guardian as long as you remain
in this world. Whatever you ask will be granted you through
Advent is another biography worth reading, from which this is
In art the great pope is usually
shown in full pontifical robes with the tiara and double cross. A
dove is his special emblem, in allusion to the well-known story
recorded by Peter the Deacon (Vita, xxviii), who tells that when
the pope was dictating his homilies on Ezekiel a veil was drawn
between his secretary and himself. As, however, the pope remained
silent for long periods at a time, the servant made a hole in the
curtain and, looking through, beheld a dove seated upon Gregory's
head with its beak between his lips. When the dove withdrew its
beak the holy pontiff spoke and the secretary took down his words;
but when he became silent the servant again applied his eye to the
hole and saw the dove had replaced its beak between his lips.
Pope St. Gregory the
Great lies in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.
Deus, qui animae famuli tui Gregorii
aeternae beatitudinis praemia contulisti: concede propitius; ut qui
peccatorum nostrorum pondere premimur, ejus apud te precibus
sublevemur. Per Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Sancte Gregori, ora pro nobis.