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He is, then, the Apostle of the Liturgy, and this alone would have immortalised his name; but we must look for far greater things from such a Pontiff as Gregory. His name was added to the three, who had hitherto been honoured as the great Doctors of the Latin Church. These three were Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome; who else could be the fourth but Gregory? The Church found in his Writings such evidence of his having been guided by the Holy Ghost,—such a knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, such a clear appreciation of the Mysteries of Faith, and such unction and authority in his teachings, that she gladly welcomed him as a new guide for her children.
Such was the respect, wherewith everything he wrote was treated, that his very Letters were preserved as so many precious treasures. This immense Correspondence shows us, that there was not a country, scarcely even a city, of the Christian world, on which the Pontiff had not his watchful eye steadily fixed; that there was not a question, however local or personal, which, if it interested religion, did not excite his zeal and arbitration, as the Bishop of the universal Church. If certain writers of modern times had but taken the pains to glance at these Letters, written by a Pope of the 6th century, they would never have asserted, as they have done, that the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff are based on documents, fabricated, as they say, two hundred years after the death of Gregory.
Throned on the Apostolic See, our Saint proved himself to be a rightful heir of the Apostles, not only as the representative and depository of their authority, but as a fellow-sharer in their mission of calling nations to the true faith. To whom does England owe her having been, for so many ages, the Island of Saints? To Gregory, who, touched with compassion for those Angli,-of whom, as he playfully said, he
would fain make Angeli,-sent to their island the Monk Augustine, with forty companions, all of them, as was Gregory himself, children of St. Benedict. The faith had been sown in this land as early as the second century, but it had been trodden down by the invasion of an infidel race. This time the seed fructified, and so rapidly, that Gregory lived to see a plentiful harvest. It is beautiful to hear the aged Pontiff speaking with enthusiasm about the results of his English mission. He thus speaks in the twentyseventh Book of his Morals: "Lo! the language of Britain, which could once mutter naught save bar"barous sounds, has long since begun to sing, in the "divine praises, the Hebrew Alleluia! Lo! that swelling sea is now calm, and Saints walk on its "waves. The tide of barbarians, which the sword of "earthly princes could not keep back, is now hemmed "in at the simple bidding of God's Priests."1
During the fourteen years that this holy Pope held the place of Peter, he was the object of the admiration of the Christian world, both in the East and West. His profound learning, his talent for administration, his position,-all tended to make him beloved and respected. But who could describe the virtues of his great soul?-that contempt for the world and its riches, which led him to seek obscurity in the cloister; that humility, which made him flee the honours of the Papacy, and hide himself in a cave, where, at length, he was miraculously discovered, and God himself put into his hands the Keys of Heaven, which he was evidently worthy to hold, because he feared the responsibility; that zeal for the whole flock, of which he considered himself not the master, but the servant, so much so indeed that he assumed the title, which the Popes have ever since retained, of Servant of the Servants of God;
1 Moral in Job. Lib. xxvii. Cap. xi.
that charity which took care of the poor throughout the whole world; that ceaseless solicitude, which provided for every calamity, whether public or private; that unruffled sweetness of manner, which he showed to all around him, in spite of the bodily sufferings which never left him during the whole period of his laborious pontificate; that firmness in defending the deposit of the Faith, and crushing error wheresoever it showed itself; in a word, that vigilance with regard to discipline, which made itself felt for long ages after in the whole Church? All these services, and glorious examples of virtue have endeared our Saint to the whole world, and will make his name be blessed by all future generations, even to the end of time.
Let us now read the abridged Life of our Saint, as given us in the Liturgy.
Gregorius magnus, Romanus, Gordiani Senatoris filius, adolescens philosophiæ operam dedit, et prætorio officio functus, patre mortuo, sex monasteria in Sicilia ædificavit; Romæ septimum sancti Andreæ nomine in suis ædibus, prope Basilicam sanctorum Joannis et Pauli ad clivum Scauri ubi Hilarione ac Maximiano magistris monachi vitam professus, postea Abbas fuit. Mox Diaconus Cardinalis creatus, Constantinopolim a Pelagio Pontifice ad Tiberium Constantinum Imperatorem legatus mittitur, apud quem memorabile etiam illud effecit, quod Eutychium Patriarcham, qui scripserat contra veram ac tractabilem corporum resurrectio
Gregory the Great, a Roman by birth, was son of the Senator Gordian. He applied early to the study of philosophy, and was intrusted with the office of Pretor. After his father's death he built six monasteries in Sicily, and a seventh, under the title of Saint Andrew, in his own house in Rome, near the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, on the hill Scaurus. In this last named monastery, he embraced the monastic life, under the guidance of Hilarion and Maximian, and was, later on, elected Abbot. Shortly afterwards, he was created Cardinal-Deacon, and was by Pope Pelagius sent to Constantinople, as Legate, to confer with the Emperor Constantine. Whilst there he achieved that celebrated victory over the
Patriarch Eutychius, who had written against the resurrection of the flesh, maintaining that it would not be a real one. Gregory so convinced him of his error, that the Emperor threw his book into the fire. Eutychius himself fell ill not long after, and when he perceived his last hour had come, he took between his fingers the skin of his hand, and said before the many who were there: "I "believe that we shall all rise "in this flesh."
On his return to Rome, he was chosen Pope, by unanimous consent, for Pelagius had been carried off by the plague. He refused, as long as it was possible, the honour thus offered him. He disguised himself, and hid himself in a cave; but he was discovered by a pillar of fire shining over the place, and was consecrated at Saint Peter's. As Pontiff, he was an example to his successors by his learning and holiness of life. He every day admitted pilgrims to his table, among whom he received, on one occasion, an Angel, and, on another, the Lord of Angels, who wore the garb of a pilgrim. He charitably provided for the poor, both in and out of Rome, and kept a list of them. He re-established the Catholic faith in several places where it had fallen into decay. Thus, he put down the Donatists in Africa, and the Arians in Spain; and drove the Agnoites out of Alexandria.
nem, ita convicit, ut ejus librum imperator in ignem injiceret. Quare Eutychius paulo post cum in morbum incidisset, instante morte, pellem manus suæ tenebat multis præsentibus, dicens : Confiteor quia omnes in hac carne resurgemus.
Romam rediens, Pelagio pestilentia sublato,_summo omnium consensu Pontifex eligitur: quem honorem ne acciperet, quamdiu potuit, recusavit. Nam alieno vestitu in spelunca delituit : ubi deprehensus indicio igneæ columnæ, ad Sanctum Petrum consecratur. In pontificatu multa successoribus doctrinæ ac sanctitatis exempla reliquit. Peregrinos quotidie ad mensam adhibebat: in quibus et Angelum, et Dominum Angelorum peregrini facie accepit. Pauperes et urbano et externos, quorum numerum descriptum habebat, benigne sustentabat. Catholicam fidem multis locis labefactatam restituit. Nam Donatistas in Africa, Arianos in Hispania repressit : Agnoitas Alexandria ejecit. Pallium Syagrio Augustodunensi Episcopo dare noluit, nisi Neophytos hæreticos expelleret ex Gallia. Gothos hæresim Arianam
relinquere coegit. Missis in Britanniam doctis et sanctis viris Augustino et aliis monachis, insulam ad Jesu Christi fidem convertit, vere a Beda presbytero Angliæ vocatus Apostolus. Joannis patriarchæ Constantinopolitani audaciam fregit, qui sibi universalis Ecclesiæ Episcopi nomen arrogabat. Mauritium imperatorem, eos qui milites fuissent, monachos fieri prohibentem, a sententia deterruit.
Ecclesiam ornavit sanctissimis institutis et legibus. Apud Sanctum Petrum coacta Synodo, multa constituit. In iis, ut in Missa Kyrie eleison novies repeteretur; ut extra id tempus, quod continetur Septuagesima et Pascha, Alleluia diceretur: ut adderetur in Canone: Diesque nostros in tua pace disponsas. Litainas, Stationes, et Ecclesiasticum officium auxit. Quatuor Conciliis, Nicæno, Constantinopolitano, Ephesino et Chalcedonensi, tamquam quatuor Evangeliis honorem haberi voluit. Episcopis Siciliæ, qui ex antiqua Ecclesiarum consuetudine Romam singulis trienniis conveniebant, quinto quoque anno semel venire indulsit.
He refused to give the pallium to Syagrius, Bishop of Autun, until he should have expelled the Neophyte heretics from Gaul. He induced the Goths to abandon the Arian heresy. He sent Augustine and other Monks into Britain, and, by these learned and saintly men, converted that island to the faith of Christ Jesus; so that Bede truly calls him the "Apostle of England." He checked the haughty pretensions of John, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had arrogated to himself the title of "Bishop "of the Universal Church." He obliged the Emperor Mauritius to revoke the decree, whereby he had forbidden any soldier to become a monk.
He enriched the Church with many most holy practices and laws. In a Council held at St. Peter's, he passed several decrees. Among these, the following may be mentioned: That in the Mass, the Kyrie eleison should be said nine times; that the Alleluia should always be said, except during the interval between Septua gesima and Easter. That these words should be inserted in the Canon: Diesque nostros in tua pace disponsas (And mayst thou dispose our days in thy peace). He increased the number of Processions (Litanies) and stations, and completed the Office of the Church. He would have the four Councils, of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, to be received