One historian wrote: “It is impossible to conceive what would have been the confusion, the lawlessness, the chaotic state of the Middle Ages without the medieval papacy; and of the medieval papacy, the real father is Gregory the Great.”
It wasn’t until he was in his mid-thirties that St. Gregory the Great became a monk. Gregory was born around the year 540 in Rome, Italy, to a wealthy family from whom two popes had come in the past. He was talented and respected, and was appointed to the civil position of prefect of Rome when he was about thirty-two years old. He soon sold his possessions, however, and turned his home into a Benedictine Monastery, becoming a monk around 575. He established six other monasteries in Sicily. He also became a missionary to England.
Gregory was appointed the pope’s representative to the imperial court in Constantinople (the residence of the emperor). He later returned to Rome and entered a monastery, though he continued to serve as a papal advisor. When the pope died in 590, Gregory, himself reluctant, was elected by unanimous acclamation as his successor on September 3, 590. He was ill throughout most of his pontificate, but Pope Gregory was an active and tenacious leader during a period troubled by famine and the invasion of Italy by the Lombards (a barbarian tribe).
Gregory acquired certain civil responsibilities due to the collapse of civil authority in the West, which helped to increase the power and prestige of the papacy in the world. Gregory instituted reforms, restored Church discipline, and promoted monastic life. He sent monks as missionaries to England, including St. Augustine of Canterbury, and to France, Spain, and Africa.
Gregory had a great influence on Church liturgy and music. One of his contributions was to codify and standardize the use of chant in the Church, now called “Gregorian Chant.” His writings on moral theology and the lives of the saints were highly respected during the Middle Ages.
St. Gregory (ca. 540-604) is one of the few Church figures honored with the title “the Great.” He was a great and highly respected pope and was also named Doctor of the Church (an eminent and reliable teacher).
Gregory’s mother is Saint Silvia and his aunt is Saint Emiliana.
“This very day is a day of truce, a day for conversion.” — St. Gregory the Great
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Pius X (1914), Pope