A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

City boy

Gregory was a smart young man from a very rich and very well connected family. They owned large estates in the country as well as a mansion on a hill in the middle of the city.

When he was still a small child, however, Gregory’s idyllic childhood was shattered by war. Violence and turmoil swept through the city again and again. The end of civilization, if not the end of the world, seemed very much at hand. Somehow he was able to receive a first-class education and as he came to adulthood his intellectual reputation in the city was second to none.

Gregory entered public life and by his very early thirties, he was the top official in the city.

Gregory was successful, rich and powerful, but it very quickly became apparent to him that his life was on the wrong track. He had always been very religious, as had been his mother and many of his family, but he felt a call to follow Christ in a radical way. After much prayer and discernment, he decided to become a monk.

It was a complete change. He turned his family’s mansion and country estates into monasteries. He withdrew from the world and focused entirely on prayer, fasting, and absolute austerity.

A few years later, war threatened once again and the city was in turmoil. The once proud city now needed outside help. Remembering Gregory’s reputation, the bishop summoned him from his seclusion, ordained him a deacon (despite his protests), and sent him as an emissary for the people.

Gregory spent six years as emissary in the most powerful city in the world, a city full of decadence and byzantine politics. He got in a very difficult theological dispute with the bishop there. He would ultimately be victorious in that conflict, but unsuccessful in his overall mission: no one would be coming to the aid of his city.

He returned home to his monastery and was soon elected abbot. He continued to write and teach as well as give assistance to the bishop of the city. Then, while walking through the streets one day, Gregory came across a group of young men from a distant land that seemed not to have heard of Christ. He resolved to go there with the good news of Christ and obtained reluctant permission from the bishop to go.

The city was still in dire straits and most of the people looked to the bishop as the most reliable leader in the city and to Gregory as his wisest assistant. When word got out that Gregory was leaving, a riot ensued. The bishop called Gregory back.

Things got worse for the city: a tremendous flood, followed by widespread starvation and disease. At this darkest of moments, the bishop died.

All eyes then turned to Gregory. For six months, he delayed the inevitable: declining consecration, but administering the diocese (and to a large extent, the city) as part of a small committee.

All options and excuses eventually came to an end, however. Gregory contemplated flight, but there was no escape. The people of the city literally seized him and carried him off to be consecrated on this very day in the year 590.

Gregory was now the Bishop of Rome, the first Pope of that name, and would come to be known in the ages to follow as St. Gregory the Great.

(from an earlier post)