St. Gregory the Great

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By Catholic Digest Staff

St. Gregory the Great

Feast Day: September 3


When the Tiber River burst its banks in 589, the raging floodwaters thoroughly destroyed the grain and food stores of Rome. As a direct result of the catastrophe, the plague easily swept through the famished and disrupted city. Among its numerous victims were Pope Pelagius II. With the city descending into chaos, the cardinals scrambled to elect a successor. Gregory, who had been an invaluable advisor to Pelagrius and was renowned for his international diplomacy and royal connections, was the clear choice. However, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the position, striving to remain the simple monk he was at heart. Ignoring the cardinals, he focused his attention on the plague decimated city, helping the people and leading triduum processions in the street, asking for the city to be delivered from its suffering. The worst of the plague passed, and he was finally forced to become Pope in 590, having been both the clerical and popular choice. Despite his clear reluctance, Gregory was a brilliant leader whose first act was to provide food to the people of Rome who were still weakened from famine and sickness. He organized and paid for food collection and distribution on a massive scale, appointing managers to oversee the needs of each affected region. He would go on to successfully save the city several times in his career, and became famous for his energy and devotion to rooting out corruption.

Catholic Digest Staff