Gregory was one of the most influential popes and most significant writers of the medieval church. He was born about 540, and in 574 he decided to hand over his wealth and became a monk. This was the happiest time of his life, and one to which, in later life he looked back with nostalgia. His ambition was to remain a simple monk. It was not to be. By popular demand he became pope on 3rd September 590. He proved himself to be wise, energetic and determined. He had a special care for the needy and vulnerable. A notable initiative was to send St Augustine and other missionaries to convert the Anglo Saxons. Gregory took a close interest in the missionaries’ work. In England where many churches are dedicated in his honour his feast day has a high rank.
Gregory was a notable pastor and one of his greatest interests was the liturgy of the church. He gave considerable attention to it, and was responsible for much development in music and worship in his time.
Ysenbrandt portrays a popular story associated with Gregory. During a celebration of Mass one day Gregory became aware that there was an unbeliever present. He prayed about this and asked for a sign that would encourage the man to be aware of the real presence of Christ in the Mass. The man was again present when Gregory celebrated his next Mass. In a vision Christ materialised above the altar showing the wounds on his hands, surrounded by symbols of his suffering and death. In the painting we see Gregory as the first to see the vision. He kneels and looks up at Christ, with his hands spread out, mirroring Christ’s hands. Others at Mass are yet unaware of the vision.
Pray: For those who come to worship (in person or online) enquiring, or wondering. If possible pray for one person in particular.
Action: Find out a little about the work of a missionaries today – at St Chrysostom’s we support USPG in their work in Global Mission. You can read about their work on their website.