Pope St. Gregory the Great

On Saturday the Church celebrates the feast of one the greatest Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Pope St. Gregory the Great (540 A.D. – 604 A.D.).   He was giant figure in the life of the church during some very turbulent periods, especially dealing with external wars and conflicts.   St. Gregory was a tireless promoter of peace and civility in a world that was chaotic and tumultuous.    He was especially astute in his negotiating peaceful terms between factions including a particularly difficult situation with the King of the Lombards (northern Italy today).   He also wrote series of letters to the King and Queens of Bavaria leading them to embrace policies of peace and eventually convert to Catholicism.


Pope St. Gregory the Great was also known for his reform of the liturgy of the Church.   Gregory’s reforms to the Mass included the universal introduction of plainchant, music that was common in the monasteries and written on paper for the first time.   This became the standard for appropriate music during the Mass in the new Gregorian Sacramentaries.   This plainchant music was called “Gregorian Chant”.   Along with his love for the Mass, Pope Gregory wrote extensively producing the Book of Morals  hundreds of homilies and sermons he delivered, commentaries on Sacred Scripture.   He beautifully said of his homilies and writings, “the preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his heart; then he can also reach the ear of his neighbor.”  


In Pope St. Gregory we see a man whose deep love of God is fueled by his deep burning love of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass.  His devotion ought also to inspire us to a profound love for the Mass.   Mistakenly we might think that the Mass is the place where we come to learn or where we come to “get something out of it”.   Often Catholics might even say “it makes me feel good to come to Mass, that’s why I go.”  Some Catholics leave Mass early, to which we can remind them that you never want to short change “heaven on earth” for fear that you might yourself be short changed out of heaven after you leave earth.   Other Catholics arrive late for Mass to which once again we remind them that the Mass is the prelude to heaven, a sort of “sneak peak” of what the glory of heaven is like, be careful not to be left behind.   No, our participation in Mass is a gift from God himself.   We should thank God for allowing us the opportunity to once again kneel in adoration, bow down in worship of the God who creates, saves and redeems us.   Only when we adjust our thinking and truly love the Mass for what it is rather than for what it does for us can we be people who find peace and tranquility for ourselves.   St. Gregory’s love for the Mass was that which propelled him to the altar in the Church and ultimately to the altar in heaven.  


Consider the next time you come to Mass to come early, to concentrate on praying and speaking to God rather than our neighbor.   Perhaps you can review the readings of the Mass prior to Mass starting so as to be more receptive of the Word of God proclaimed during Mass.    Finally, sing with a heart of love.   Don’t be afraid to sing, even if you think you don’t have a good voice.   God gave it to you, so return it him in love.   Together, may we come to love the Lord Jesus more, in the most beautiful expression of our gratitude to him, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 


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