Gregory was born to a noble Roman Family in 540. As a young man he was appointed the Prefect (mayor) of the city of Rome. After a few wise and happy years of governing the city he resigned in order to become a Benedictine monk. He turned his palace into a monastery and began living an austere life of prayer and penance.
However his dream about spending the rest of his life in the monastery wasn’t to happen. In 590 he was elected the new bishop of Rome. Interestingly his great-grandfather St Felix III was Pope too. St Felix chose the priesthood after the death of his wife and eventually was elected the Holy Father. With the election to Papacy Gregory found himself in charge of the city of Rome again but this time he was also to govern the Universal Church. I guess that those who elected him didn’t know how providential their decision was. In the quietness and seclusion of a monastery they found the man whom God equipped perfectly to lead the Church during those difficult years. The Roman Empire was collapsing and the world Gregory and his contemporaries knew was vanishing. New nations were flowing into the territory of the Empire and the dynamic of the society was changing. Lots of Romans, particularly those from aristocracy, were still clinging to the old system, dreaming about restoring the deteriorating country. They were advising the new Pope to work on reestablishing the Roman Empire. To their surprise and probably disgust the Pope chose a different approach. He made it clear that the Church should focus on evangelizing those new peoples moving into the country instead. Gregory’s vision had reenergized the Church and led to the new missionary zeal. Although the Pope grew up in the old system he was able to foresee the need to move into future. He knew that the Kingdom of God wasn’t limited to the Roman Empire, that those new peoples making their home among Romans citizens were in need to be brought to faith. Today as we see a similar situation when people move across the globe we, the followers of Jesus, need to have the same vision and courage of the Pope from 6th century who didn’t let his past keep him from reaching out to new opportunities the challenging situation of his time presented. He didn’t spent his life feeling sorry for himself and crying for the disappearing old world but rather with courage and trust in the Lord he enthused the Church to be a mission community.
England is privileged to have St Gregory for their patron as he was the one who sent St Augustine and 40 monks to the English shores to evangelize there. However I believe that St Gregory is a perfect patron for the New Evangelization in 21 century. If we ,Catholic of our time, can have Gregory’s openness to the Holy Spirit we can be a missionary community too which isn’t paralyzed by memories of the past but enthused to grasp the opportunities the challenging world of ours is presenting.