19 February 2009
Pope Gregory I
Who is Pope Gregory the first? How did he get the title “The Great”?
This medieval pope was born around 540 anno domini (the year of our Lord) in the city of Rome. His father’s name was Gordianus and his mother’s name was Silvia. They owned large estates in Sicily and a palace on the Caelian Hill in Rome. His father was a wealthy man of senatorial rank and his mother was commemorated as a saint. Gregory’s family was politically influential and very little is known of his early life. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia he was skilful in grammar, rhetoric and dialectic and it seems certain that he must have gone through a course of legal studies. Also, his education was influenced by the religious atmosphere of his home. He loved to meditate on the Scriptures and to listen attentively to the conversations of his elders, so that he was “devoted to God from his youth up.”
In 573 A.D. he started a public career in the high office of Prefect of the city of Rome. However, about 574 he was attracted to the religious life and resigned his post, founded six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome, and in the last-the famous monastery of St. Andrew-became himself a monk.1 He lived at St. Andrew for about three years and refers to this time of life ad the happiest time. In 578, the pope ordained him, against his will, as one of the seven deacons of Rome. His life style as a monk probably caused his health to deteriorate which he suffered during his later life. He was greatly concerned about missionary work. In particular, he was determined to bring the gospel to Britain. Pope Pelagius II died in the year of 590 of the plague; he was unanimously elected to the papacy. Gregory immediately wrote to the emperor asking him to withhold his consent from the election, which he had neither sought nor wanted. During this time, he was greatly involved in pastoral work among...