Today, 3rd September, is the Feast of St Gregory the Great, many things have been written about this great sixth century church leader and pope, who is sometimes called the Apostle to the English. He sent Augustine to convert the Angles. His prayer life was energised by a dynamic of love and desire for God. However another story, a legend, about him tells of another desire.
One year, the story goes, on the Feast of St Mark, April 25th, Gregory, who led a simple life, was suddenly overcome by a strong craving for cherries. His gardeners and servants were at a loss. The spring had been raw and the cherry trees of the area were just going into blossom – there was no fruit yet.
One of the gardeners wandered in despair when he saw a vision of St Mark. The saint asked him why he was upset and when he heard the reason St Mark blessed a cherry tree which miraculously produced wonderfully in fragrant, succulent red fruit. The story handed down through the centuries in the local dialect recounts, that Pope Gregory “se ne fece subito una bella panzata” (“wasted no time in wolfing down a bellyful”). To this day cherries are served at the Papal meal table on St Mark’s Day.
So? When we look at saints in stained glass windows such as those in St Chrysostom’s Church, and when we admire their virtues and lives let’s also remember that they, like us, had their cravings, and their unusual ways! That they were people like us can encourage us to be people like them.