Gregory was born in the early part of the 11th century when the Church had to battle lay investiture. This was the custom by which a layperson, such as a king or an emperor, appointed bishops, abbots, and so forth.
This created problems for the Church and caused much conflict among the rulers of nations. Pope Gregory VII was the advisor to eight popes before he became pope. He was often called the Reform Pope.
When Gregory became pope in 1073, he preached against lay investiture. His chief enemy in this battle was Henry IV, emperor of Germany. The pope asked the Norman rulers of southern Italy to help him lead the emperor to apologize, and he succeeded. Henry again attacked Pope Gregory, who was forced to go into exile at Salerno, Italy. Pope Gregory died in exile, after having been pope for about 12 years. Pope Gregory VII was responsible for beginning the long fight that eventually managed to do away with lay investiture.
Pope Saint Gregory VII fought against simony. Have the students read Acts of the Apostles 8:9–24 and then find the definition of simony in a Catholic dictionary or encyclopedia. Call attention to the link between simony and Simon the magician’s name.
Direct the students to look up the definition of reformer. Then discuss what difficulties a reformer might meet. Direct them to do research on Church reformers: Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, Ignatius of Loyola, Vincent de Paul, Francis of Assisi.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Pope Gregory VII by unknown artist, 11th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia.