Gregory was born about A.D. 540 in Rome, the son of a wealthy senator. Like most of the nobility of his time, he was well educated. But unlike many, he was generous and concerned about those who were poor.
In his early thirties, Gregory was made the chief prefect, or governor, of Rome. Gregory was attracted to the religious life and soon left his position. He converted the family estate in Rome into the Abbey of Saint Andrew, became a monk there, and founded six Benedictine monasteries on his estates in Sicily. In about 578, he was ordained a deacon of Rome and sent as the papal ambassador to Constantinople, where he served until 585. When he arrived back in Rome, he was made the abbot of Saint Andrew’s.
In 590, Gregory was acclaimed pope by the clergy and the people of Rome. Unwillingly, Gregory accepted the role, calling himself the “servant of the servants of God.” Because of his political skill, learning, talents, and deep devotion to God, Gregory was able to make peace with the invading Lombards, save the city from famine by reorganizing the property and granaries of the Church, and restore order within the Church. In 596, he sent Augustine of Canterbury and 40 other monks to England to teach the Angles the faith. Gregory is called the “Apostle of England.” He died March 12, 604.
Discuss how Saint Gregory the Great responded to the needs of his time. Ask for qualities a person would need today to be a saint.
Gregory is sometimes accredited with Gregorian chant, the Church’s liturgical chant form. Play some samples of Gregorian chant and teach the students one of the Latin responses. Gregory was known for liturgical reform and for encouraging the Stations of the Cross and daily Mass during Lent.
Gregory the Great, Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome are the four key Fathers of the Western Church. Have the students research any of these men to discover why they are called Fathers of the Church.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Pope Gregorius I dictating the Gregorian Chants by Hartker of Sankt-Gallen, 1000. Public Domain via Wikimedia.