Sep 3 – Memorial for St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor
St. Gregory (540-590) collected the melodies and plain chants so associated with him, that they are now known as Gregorian Chants. He was elected by unanimous acclamation for pope. Incidentally, he was also the first monk to be pope. Before his papacy, he turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome. He became a missionary to England upon seeing English children being sold in the Roman Forum.
- Patron Saint Index
2 Cor 4:1-2,5-7
We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.
Being conferred ownership and given acknowledgement and affirmation — these are important needs to be met for many to feel valued and appreciated. But, depending on organisations or circumstance or personalities, such occasions may be few and far between.
At the same time, all who are candidly aware of their desire to be recognised and affirmed, will probably be familiar with the double-edged sword of pride and vanity. Indeed, no one is safely protected from such weaknesses, no matter how spiritually buffeted they are! Honesty with one’s innermost thoughts is therefore, the best policy. In retrospect, many a time, it is at this threshold that my self-awareness is met with God’s mercy and grace.
The readings of today and the Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, who was both Pope and a Doctor of the Church, are signposts of our earthen flaws. These flaws are our human tendency to succumb to the 3Ps — Power, Pride, Pleasure — no matter the times we live in. Saint Gregory was of aristocratic blood and by extension, naturally assumed a high office in public service — he was the Prefect of the City of Rome for several years. Yet, he eventually gave it all up to be a monk and founded several monasteries in Rome and Sicily. He was elected Pope on 3 September 590, the first monk to be elected to this office.
Yet, despite all his earthly prestige and accomplishments, Saint Gregory wrote extensively on pastoral care, spirituality, and morals, and designated himself as “servant of the servants of God.”
Paul’s letter in the first reading to the early Corinthian church seems to resonate and aptly depict the conviction and humility lived by Saint Gregory:
“Since we have by an act of mercy been entrusted with this work of administration, there is no weakening on our part. On the contrary, we will have none of the reticence of those who are ashamed, no deceitfulness or watering down the word of God… For it is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-2
Perhaps the wisdom in the day’s scripture points us towards an ascetism of praise and a stoicism of purpose.
However, to simply assert that as Christians, we need to give all glory to God (and rightly so), would be to sidestep the very real need humans have for the love language of appreciation and affirmation in our earthly relations. Indeed, some souls today are so starved of verbal affection and being seen, that we increasingly see the tragedy that is depression and low self-worth.
May I offer a reimagination of praise and self-valuation?
Earthenware jars we may be.
Yet our God deems us ever-worthy to hold
treasures realised, and yet unknown –
jars of plain clay are nevertheless
lovingly formed by
the Potter’s hand. You and I, we are the dream and twinkle
in his eye,
shaped into vessels with infinite possibilities.
To contain and hold, to love and to grow.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Take my life and let it be consecrated to Thee
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee
Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.