It is beyond the scope of this notice to attempt any elaborate estimate of the work, influence, and character of St. Pope Gregory the Great, but some short focusing of the features given above is only just. First of all, perhaps, it will be best to clear the ground by admitting frankly what Gregory was not. He was not a man of profound learning, not a philosopher, not a conversationalist, hardly even a theologian in the constructive sense of the term. He was a trained Roman lawyer and administrator, a monk, a missionary, a preacher, above all a physician of souls and a leader of men. His great claim to remembrance lies in the fact that he is the real father of the medieval papacy (Milman). With regard to things spiritual, he impressed upon men’s minds to a degree unprecedented the fact that the See of Peter was the one supreme, decisive authority in the Catholic Church. During his pontificate, he established close relations between the Church of Rome and those of Spain, Gaul, Africa, and Illyricum, while his influence in Britain was such that he is justly called the Apostle of the English. In the Eastern Churches, too, the papal authority was exercised with a frequency unusual before his time, and we find no less an authority than the Patriarch of Alexandria submitting himself humbly to the pope’s “commands”. The system of appeals to Rome was firmly established, and the pope is found to veto or confirm the decrees of synods, to annul the decisions of patricarchs, and inflict punishment on ecclesiastical dignitaries precisely as he thinks right. Nor is his work less noteworthy in its effect on the temporal position of the papacy. Seizing the opportunity which circumstances offered, he made himself in Italy a power stronger than emperor or exarch, and established a political influence which dominated the peninsula for centuries. From this time forth the varied populations of Italy looked to the pope for guidance, and Rome as the papal capital continued to be the centre of the Christian world. Gregory’s work as a theologian and Doctor of the Church is less notable. In the history of dogmatic development he is important as summing up the teaching of the earlier Fathers and consolidating it into a harmonious whole, rather than as introducing new developments, new methods, new solutions of difficult questions. It was precisely because of this that his writings became to a great extent the compendium theologiae or textbook of the Middle Ages, a position for which his work in popularizing his great predecessors fitted him well. Achievements so varied have won for Gregory the title of “the Great”, but perhaps, among our English-speaking races, he is honoured most of all as the pope who loved the bright-faced Angles, and taught them first to sing the Angels’ song.
The last years of Gregory’s life were filled with every kind of suffering. His mind, naturally serious, was filled with despondent forebodings, and his continued bodily pains were increased and intensified. His “sole consolation was the hope that death would come quickly” (Epp., XIII, xxvi). The end came on 12 March, 604, and on the same day his body was laid to rest in front of the sacristy in the portico of St. Peter’s Basilica. 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.