By Kelly Legg

This month we are learning some history about St. Gregory The Great. St. Gregory was born in the year A.D. 540 in Rome, the son of a wealthy senator. Born into nobility, he was well educated, however, St. Gregory was generous and had a passion to help the poor. According to the legend, his mother had a vision of St. Anthony who promised her that her infant son should one day wear the papal tiara.

In his early thirties, St. Gregory was made the governor of Rome. His calling to serve God was strong so he left his position in politics. He converted the family estate in Rome into an Abbey, became a monk and founded six Benedictine monasteries on his estates in Sicily. In about 578, he was ordained a deacon of Rome and became a papal ambassador.

In 590, St. Gregory was elected 64th Pope by unanimous consent. He was the first monk to be chosen for this honor. Reluctantly, St. Gregory accepted the role, calling himself the “servant of the servants of God.” Because of his political skill, learning and deep devotion to God, Gregory was able to make peace and restore order within the church.

St. Gregory was also known for liturgical reform and for encouraging the Stations of the Cross and daily Mass during Lent. St. Gregory is sometimes accredited with Gregorian chant, the church’s liturgical chant form.

The custom of saying “God bless you” when someone has sneezed is also attributed to St. Gregory. There was an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Rome during this time. In hopes of fighting off the disease, he ordered unending prayer and parades of chanters through the streets. At the time, sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague. The blessing, “God bless you,” became a common effort to halt the disease.

St. Gregory is known as one of the four greatest Latin-speaking fathers and Doctors of the church. 

St. Gregory The Great died of natural causes in 604 A.D., and is considered the patron of popes, masons, choir boys, singers, teachers and musicians.

Stay tuned next month while we explore the life of St. Anthony of Padua.