Archive for the ‘St. Gregory the Great’ Tag

Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (May 26)   2 comments

Above:  England, 600 C.E.

Image scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1968)

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SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY (DIED MAY 26, 604 OR 605)

Archbishop of Canterbury

Anglican feast day = May 26

Roman Catholic feast day = May 27

Alternative feast day = May 28

In 596 our saint was the Prior of the Monastery of St. Andrew, Rome.  If he had remained there, he would have been at most a footnote in history.  That year, however, Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” appointed him to lead a group of 30 or so missionary monks to southern England.  The Christian Gospel had most likely come to the island of Britain with the Roman army.  In the wake of Roman withdrawal and pagan invasions, however, the Celtic Church was present mostly in the western and northern regions of the island.

The Italian-born monk and his entourage arrived in the Kingdom of Kent in 597.  King Ethelbert of Kent (reigned circa 597-616) and his Frankish Christian wife, Bertha (both saints in the Roman Catholic Church), welcomed them.  With royal support the monks settled in Canterbury and began to preach.  That year, at Arles, he became a bishop.  Four years later St. Gregory the Great promoted St. Augustine to the rank of Archbishop.  As the first Archbishop of Canterbury St. Augustine ordained priests, consecrated bishops (including St. Mellitus, a subsequent Archbishop of Canterbury), consecrated the cathedral at Canterbury, presided over the construction of the Monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul (later renamed St. Augustine’s), converted King Ethelbert and many royal subjects, and attempted to united the Celtic and Roman Catholic Churches.  He did not live long enough to witness the completion of the final goal at the Synod of Whitby (664).

The year of St. Augustine’s death is uncertain.  The official website of the Archbishop of Canterbury states that he died between 604 and 609.  The 1968 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica lists his death as occurring no earlier than 604 and probably before Easter 607.  The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Second Edition, 1974) states that our saint died in either 604 or 605.  The 1962 edition of The Encyclopedia Americana provides 604 as the year of his death.  Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) lists 605 as the year of his death.   Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), resources of The Episcopal Church, also list the year of St. Augustine’s death as 605.

St. Augustine of Canterbury, with help from other saints (not all of them canonized), laid a fine foundation for the Roman Catholic Church in Britain.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIP AND DANIEL BERRIGAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

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O Lord our God, by your Son Jesus Christ you called your apostles

and sent them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations:

We bless your holy Name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury,

whose labors in propagating your Church among the English people we commemorate today;

and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, and bide your time, and see your glory;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Tobit 13:1, 10-11

Psalm 66:1-8

2 Corinthians 5:17-20a

Luke 5:1-11

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 389

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Feast of Sts. Sylvia of Rome, Emiliana of Rome, Trasilla, and Gregory the Great (March 12)   4 comments

st-gregory-the-great

Above:  St. Gregory the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SYLVIA OF ROME (CIRCA 515-CIRCA 592)

Ascetic

Also known as Saint Silvia of Rome

Her feast transferred from November 3

mother of

SAINT GREGORY I “THE GREAT” (CIRCA 540-MARCH 12, 604)

Bishop of Rome

His feast day = March 12

Alternative feast day = September 3

nephew of

SAINT EMILIANA OF ROME

Ascetic

Her feast transferred from September 3

sister of

SAINT TRASILLA 

Ascetic

Her feast transferred from December 24

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Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” was a pious man and a major saint whose vocation overlapped with difficult times in Italy.  His piety, which served him and many others well, grew out of his family.

His great-grandfather (through his father’s side of the family tree) was Pope St. Felix II (sometimes listed as St. Felix III), who reigned from 483 to 492.  St. Felix had to contend with the monophysite heresy (that Jesus had only a divine nature), intertwined with the politics of the (Eastern) Roman Empire shortly after the gradual demise of the Western Roman Empire, complete in 476.  According to J. N. D. Kelly, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986), St. Felix was intransient, harsh, and authoritarian (page 47).

565

Above:  The Roman (Byzantine) Empire in 565

Image Source = Florida Center for Educational Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida

Image used in accordance with licensing rules at the website of FCIT, which requests that I include this link

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St. Gregory I’s father was Gordianus, a Roman senator.  (Emperor Justinian I “the Great” had presided over the temporary reconquest of portions of the former Western Roman Empire.)  St. Gregory I’s mother was St. Sylvia of Rome (circa 515-circa 592).  The family resided in a mansion in Rome.  Then household included the future Pope’s aunts–sisters of Gordianus–St. Trasilla, and St. Emiliana of Rome at least.  According to some sources, there was a third sister, Gordiana.  The holy sisters/aunts had devoted their lives to God and chosen to live as ascetics in their brother’s household.  St. Gregory I also had a brother, whose name has not survived.  St. Sylvia, as a widow, joined her sisters-in-law in the ascetic life at the estate.

St. Gregory I, who served as the Prefect of Rome in 573 and 574, sold his property, donated the proceeds to the poor, lived ascetically, and became a monk at the estate in 574.  He also founded seven monasteries.  Pope Pelagius II removed St. Gregory I from the monastery in 578 and ordained him to the diaconate.  The following year the Supreme Pontiff dispatched him to Constantinople, the imperial capital, to request military aid in defending against incursions of the Lombards, who were building a kingdom in Italy.  Emperor Tiberius II (reigned 574-582) offered little help in defending his own territory in Italy, for he had other borders to defend too.  He recommended that the Italians seek help from the Franks and bribe the Lombards.  Our saint knew that he could not expect much help from Constantinople in the present time and in the future.  He returned to Rome and his monastery/estate in 585.  There he served as abbot while functioning as an advisor to Pope Pelagius II.

Pope Pelagius II died on February 7, 590.  Much to his chagrin St. Gregory I won election–unanimously, too–to the papal office.  The deacon would have preferred to continue as an abbot.  Despite all his attempts to evade the papacy, St. Gregory I became the Bishop of Rome on September 3, 590.  The 50-year-old saint, who was not in the best of health for much of the ensuing nearly 14 years, tended to his duties.  He, for example, enforced the celibacy of priests, established new rules for electing bishops, upheld papal supremacy, encouraged the veneration of authentic relics, established a school for singers, resisted Donatism in northern Africa, and wrote sermons and biblical commentaries.  Also, in 596, he sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and his retinue to England.  St. Gregory also found himself forced to perform civil functions, due to the breakdown of government and the negligence of imperial officials.  He, for example, negotiated treaties, appointed generals, paid soldiers, and coordinated the feeding of starving masses in war zones.  He was the de facto ruler of much of Italy.  St. Gregory I, unable to walk at the end of his life, died on March 12, 604, during a siege of Rome.  His canonization was immediate and a matter of public acclamation.

What might St. Gregory I have been without the influence of his family?  And, had he not accepted his responsibilities, how might the lives of many others been worse?  Perhaps another person would have stepped forward and acted at least as capably.  Perhaps not.

Sometimes one’s duty includes dealing with a bad situation and improving it, without making it good.  That description certainly applies to the circumstances with which St. Gregory I had to contend.  May we, like this great saint, rise to the occasion whenever presents itself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory the Great to be a servant of the servants of God,

and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people:

Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught,

that your people, being fruitful in every good work,

may receive the crown of glory that never fades away;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1a, 6-8

Psalm 57:6-11

Colossians 1:28-2:3

Mark 10:42-45

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 269

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Feast of St. Simplicius (March 10)   Leave a comment

st-simplicius

Above:  St. Simplicius

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SIMPLICIUS (DIED MARCH 10, 483)

Bishop of Rome

St. Simplicius and his immediate successors in the papacy had to contend with diplomatic difficulties and the overlapping monophysite heresy.  The native of Tivoli became the Bishop of Rome in 468.  He rejected an attempt by Acacius, the Patriarch of Constantinople from 472 to 489, to grant the See of Constantinople equivalency with the See of Rome.  St. Simplicius also refused to make peace with monophysitism (the heresy that Jesus had only a divine nature), as in the compromise Henoticon (482), which Acacius and the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno supported.  The Patriarch and the Emperor were also installing monophysite bishops in the East.  St. Simplicius resisted Acacius and Zeno, with little success.

The next Supreme Pontiff was St. Felix II (sometimes listed as St. Felix III), who reigned from 483 to 492 and great-grandfather of Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” (reigned 590-604).  Felix was, according to J. N. D. Kelly, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, 1986), intransient, harsh, and authoritarian.  In 484 St. Felix excommunicated Acacius, thereby causing the Acacian Schism (484-519).

Pope St. Gelasius I (reigned 492-496) defended the excommunication of Acacius and insisted on papal supremacy.

Pope Anastasius II (reigned 496-498) was somewhat conciliatory toward Acacius and his successor as the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Pope St. Symmachus (reigned 498-514) was, according to Emperor Anastasius I (reigned 491-519), an “illegally ordained” pontiff and a heretic–allegedly a Manichean, to be precise.  Anastasius eventually attempted reconciliation, but his letter arrived in Rome after St. Symmachus died.

Pope St. Hormisdas (reigned 514-523) presided over the end of the Acacian Schism.  The new emperor, Justin I (reigned 519-527), rejected monophysitism.  Also related to the end of the Acacian Schism were imperial designs to recover Italy.

These chapters in ecclesiastical history demonstrate the folly of uniting church and state.  The former suffers from that union more than the latter does.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN, A.K.A. MUNGO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Saint Simplicius

to be a bishop in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household

as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 719

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Feast of St. Mellitus (April 24)   1 comment

England 600

Above:  England, 600 C.E.

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1967)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT MELLITUS (DIED APRIL 24, 624)

Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury

We know little about the early life of St. Mellitus.  He was probably Italian and of noble birth.  He might also have been the Abbot of St. Andrew, Rome, leader of the monastery to which St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Gregory I “the Great” had belonged.  We do know, however, that St. Gregory I, as the Bishop of Rome, had sent St. Augustine and a team of missionaries a few years before he, at the request of St. Augustine (then the Archbishop of Canterbury) another team of missionaries.  The leader of that second team was St. Mellitus.

St. Mellitus became an important figure in the English Church in the 600s.  St. Augustine consecrated him a bishop in 604.  St. Mellitus, apostle to the East Saxons, established his headquarters at London.  He had to go into exile for at least a year in the late 610s because he refused to give sacramental bread to pagan princes.  His eventual successor (after decades of a vacancy) as bishop in that region was St. Cedd of Lastingham.  St. Mellitus became the third Archbishop of Canterbury in 619.  His tenure, during most which he was prone to bad health, was mostly uneventful.  He died in office on April 24, 624.

Foundational figures fascinate me, for I know that I am fortunate to stand on the shoulders of giants.  My faith has much to do with that St. Mellitus, who left his homeland, settled in a foreign country, and engaged in missionary work there.  My ancestry is mostly British, so I owe a debt of gratitude to the founders of British Christianity, especially Roman Catholic missionaries to England in the late 500s and early 600s.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, DESERT FATHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, UNITARIAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Saint Mellitus,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of England.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 716

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