Gregory the Great was a man with a mission. Following his father’s death, Gregory founded a number of Benedictine monasteries on the family property in Sicily and one in the family home in Rome. It was in the Roman monastery that Gregory became a Benedictine monk. As fate would have it, Gregory did not stop there. Gregory, was ordained a priest by the pope against his will and made one of the seven deacons of Rome. This took Gregory out of his much desired contemplation and seclusion. Shortly thereafter, the pope assigned Gregory as ambassador to Constantinople, where he remained for six years. After his term, he returned to Rome to become abbot of his monastery. Soon his fame began to spread, his monastery grew famous for it’s strong way of life, which attracted many to enter. His leadership produced many famous monks who would also effect the Church.
One of Gregory’s passions was giving lectures on and transcribing Sacred Scripture. Gregory also had a great desire to convert the Angles. With this, he sent ten of his best monks to found a monastery, but at the insistence of the Roman people, Gregory was not to be among them. Here agin, we see the hand of God.
At the death of Pope Pelagius II, the clergy and people of Rome unanimously and without hesitation elected Gregory as successor. Pope Gregory was a Benedictine, with his eye on reform. One of his focuses was on the Liturgy, sacred music and the clergy, at times expelling “bad” priests.
We can see much similarity to our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict is known as the professor, a man of learning, a scholar. Here is another man attracted to the Benedictine way of life. On the day of his election he announced: “Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples. Additionally, I recall Saint Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe. I ask him to help us all to hold firm to the centrality of Christ in our Christian life: May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions!”
Of course the newly elected pope was thinking of Benedict as a peace maker in the midst of wars, but was he also thinking of the Benedictine connection to the Sacred Liturgy. Since he took the seat of Peter, Benedict has caused the Church to refocus and to rethink our ideas on the Mass. A once despised and scorned “Tridintine” Mass now has equal par with the post conciliar Mass. Although there have been no major pronouncements, Benedict is turning the rudder of the Church away from “man” centered Liturgies, back to Christ centered Liturgies. His beautiful work “The Spirit of the Liturgy” is being put into action in many corners of the Church. Like Gregory, Benedict is also a music man. Benedict knows the power of Sacred Music and is restoring it’s place in Vatican Liturgies.
Gregory removed “bad” clerics, and because of our unfortunate state today, Benedict has made provision to do the same.
We are having no sweeping reforms, but, what Pope Benedict XVI is doing will have a lasting effect on the Church’s direction for years to come. Whether he will become known as Benedict the Great, only time will tell.