Saint Gregory I

   Saint Gregory I, called Gregory the Great, c. 540-604, pope, was born in Rome. His marked ability and his patrician birth procured for him the position of prefect of Rome at the age of 30. Desiring to devote his life to religious austerity, he renounced the office. Distributing his wealth to monasteries, he withdrew from public life and embraced the rule of St. Benedict as a monk. His remarkable talents, how­ever, caused Pope Pelagius II to order him from the monastic life, to ordain him deacon of Rome, and to send him to the Byzantine Court as the papal nuncio. In dispatching these duties and under his later appointment as abbot of St. Andrew's monastery, Gregory achieved so great a reputation with the gen­eral public that the populace of Rome blocked his path when he desired to go to Britain to convert the Angles. At Pope Pelagius' death, Gregory's popularity had reached such a height that the people and the clergy unanimously proclaimed him pope. After his unsuccessful attempt to refuse the tiara, Gregory was bodily carried by the citizens to the Basilica of St. Peter's and there consecrated pope. He ruled from 590 to 604.

   The new pope immediately set about righting abuses. To alleviate the sufferings caused by the ravaging Lombards, he made the papal states the source of unlimited charities; he ousted idlers and court sycophants and chose efficient clerics for his administrative body; he boldly resisted imperial demands and openly fought against the Lombards to protect his people and their properties. His genius contributed to the discipline, liturgy, and music still in effect in the church today. The title bestowed on him, "Father of the Medieval Church," is testimony that he is considered one of its greatest leaders. Significant of his own saintliness, sincerity, and humility, is the title he assigned to himself in an age when titles and ranks were held high—"servus servorum Dei," (servant of the servants of God) a title still used by his successors.