Daily Reflection 3 September 2008: Saint Gregory the Great Pope and Doctor of the Church

About the Saint:

Born about 540, Gregory was Prefect of Rome when he renounced the world and entered a monastery about 575. He was ordained Deacon, and sent on a Papal Mission to Constantinople from 580-585. He became Pope in 590. It was the time of the barbarian attacks on Rome; he cared for the poor and refugees, made contact with the Barbarians, sent missionaries to England. His writings are extensive, particularly the commentaries on Scripture. His liturgies, collected in the Gregorian Sacramentary, have been influentual to our own era.

Collect of the Day:

Father, you guide your people with kindness and govern us with love. By the prayers of Saint Gregory give the spirit of wisdom to those you hvae called to lead your Church. May the growth of your people in  holiness be the eternal joy of our Shepherds.

We make our prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit ever one God world without end. Amen.

A Reading from the homilies of Pope St. Gregory the Great on the book of Ezekiel  Bk I,II,4-6

‘Son of man, I have appointed you as watchman to the house of Israel.’  Note that Ezekiel, whom the Lord sent to preach his word, is described as a watchman.  Now a watchman always takes up his position on the heights so that he can see from a distance whatever approaches.  Likewise whoever is appointed watchman to a people should live a life on the heights so that he can help them in taking a wide survey.

These words are hard to utter, for when I speak it is myself that I am reproaching.  I do not preach as I should nor does my life follow the principles I preach so inadequately.

I do not deny that I am guilty, for I see my torpor and my negligence.  Perhaps my very recognition of failure will win me pardon from a sympathetic judge.  When I lived in a monastic community I was able to keep my tongue from idle topics and to devote my mind almost continually to the discipline of prayer.  Since taking on my shoulders the burden of pastoral care, I have been unable to keep steadily recollected because my mind is distracted by many responsibilities.

I am forced to consider questions affecting churches and monasteries and often I must judge the lives and actions of individuals; at one moment I am forced to take part in certain civil affairs, next I must worry over the incursions of barbarians and fear the wolves who menace the flock entrusted to my care; now I must accept political responsibility in order to give support to those who preserve the rule of law; now I must bear patiently the villainies of brigands, and then I must confront them, yet in all charity.

My mind is sundered and torn to pieces by the many and serious things I have to think about.  When I try to concentrate and gather all my intellectual resources for preaching, how can I do justice to the sacred ministry of the word?  I am often compelled by the nature of my position to associate with men of the world and sometimes I relax the discipline of my speech.  If I preserved the rigorously inflexible mode of utterance that my conscience dictates, I know that the weaker sort of men would recoil from me and that I could never attract them to the goal I desire for them.  So I must frequently listen patiently to their aimless chatter.  Because I am weak myself I am drawn gradually into idle talk and I find myself saying the kind of thing that I didn’t even care to listen to before.  I enjoy lying back where I once was loath to stumble.

Who am I-what kind of watchman am I?  I do not stand on the pinnacle of achievement, I languish rather in the depths of my weakness.  And yet the creator and redeemer of mankind can give me, unworthy though I be, the grace to see life whole and power to speak effectively of it.  It is for love of him that I do not spare myself in preaching him.

Concluding Prayer:

God our Father, your rule of love, your providence is full of mercy for your people. Through the intercession of Saint Gregory grant the spirit of wisdom to those you have placed in authority, so that the spiritual growth of the people may bring eternal joy to the Pastors.

We make our prayer through Jesus Christ Your Son Our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit ev er one God world without end. Amen.

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