March 2009 - St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome
Gregory was born in Rome to a wealthy senatorial family. He received a good education in secular and spiritual learning, and became Prefect of Rome. He used his great wealth mostly for the good of the Church, building six monasteries in Sicily and another in Rome itself. At this monastery, dedicated to the Apostle Andrew, Gregory was tonsured a monk. He was appointed Archdeacon of Rome, and in 579, Papal legate to the Patriarchate in Constantinople, where he lived for nearly seven years. In Constantinople he served in the Hagia Sophia and immersed himself in the Eastern Church Liturgies and music.
Archdeacon Gregory returned to Rome in 585 and was elected Pope in 590. Pope Gregory is famed for his many writings, his generous charity (he gave all his wealth to the poor, and often invited the poor to share his table), and for initiating missionary work among the Anglo-Saxon peoples.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, celebrated on Wednesday evenings during Great Lent, was compiled by him. St Gregory introduced elements of the chanting that he had studied in Constantinople into Western Church chant: The Gregorian Chant which beautifies the Roman Catholic Churche is named for him. Its system of modes is related to the eight tones of the Eastern Church. He is called 'the Dialogist' after his book The Dialogues, an account of the lives and miracles of Italian saints. Saint Gregory reposed in peace in 604. Immediately after his death, Pope Gregory was canonized a Saint by popular acclaim.