May 25, 2019: POPE ST. GREGORY VII
May 25, 2019: ST. GREGORY VII, POPE AND CONFESSOR
In hymns of triumph, we celebrate thy memory, O Gregory, thou bright ray of Rome's glory! With a brave heart, thou masteredst the storm, and reachedst the shore.
Hear, O Lord, we beseech thee, the prayers we offer on this solemnity of blessed Gregory, thy Confessor and Bishop; and by his intercession, who worthily served thee, deliver us from all our sins. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
Arise then, O Father! yea, rise as a new sun upon this world, and gladden it with thy beams. Thy Throne, O Pontiff, judge of the world, is to be the Chair of Peter.
Let them now hide themselves and flee, who, with hostile rage, were rushing 'gainst the flock of Christ, and had their sacrilegious weapons raised to dart them at his Church.
For lo! there is a Shepherd come, vigilant and full of the Spirit from on high: he has the sword of the Word; and with its power he will crush the dark plots wherewith Satan threatens our peace.
We will now read the Lessons of to-day's Feast wherein the Church speaks to us of the life and actions of our admirable Pontiff: we will read them with all the greater reverence, because they have been scoffed at by men, who knew not what they did.
Pope Gregory the Seventh, whose baptismal name was Hildebrand, was born at Soana, in Tuscany. He excelled in learning, sanctity, and every virtue, and rendered extraordinary service to the whole Church of God. It is related of him, that, when he was a little boy, he happened to be at play in a carpenter's shop; when, gathering together the waste pieces of wood, he arranged them so as that they formed these words of David's prophecy, though the boy knew not his alphabet: He shall rule from sea to sea. It was God that guided the child's hand, and would thus signify that, at some future time, Gregory was to exercise an authority that would extend over the whole world. He afterwards went to Rome, and was educated under the protection of St. Peter. He was intensely grieved at finding the Liberty of the Church crushed by Lay interference, and at beholding the depraved lives of the Clergy; he, therefore, whilst still young, retired to the monastery of Cluny, where strict monastic discipline was then in full vigour, under the Rule of Holy Father Benedict. He there received the Habit. So fervent was he in the service of the Divine Majesty, that the holy Religious of that Monastery chose him as their Prior. But divine Providence having, for the general good, destined him to a higher work, Hildebrand was taken from Cluny, and was first made Abbot of the monastery of Saint Paul's, (outside the walls of Rome,) and, afterwards, was created Cardinal of the Roman Church. He was intrusted with offices and missions of the highest importance, under Popes Leo the Ninth, Victor the Second, Stephen the Ninth, Nicholas the Second, and Alexander the Second. St. Peter Damian used to call him the most holy and upright Counsellor. Having been sent into France, as Legate à latere, by Pope Victor the Second, he, by a miracle, compelled the Archbishop of Lyons to own that he had been guilty of simony. He also obliged Berengarius to repeat, at a Council held at Tours, his abjuration of heresy. The schism of Cadolaus was also repressed by his energetic measures.
At the death of Alexander the Second, he, in spite of his own repugnance, and to his great sorrow, was chosen as Sovereign Pontiff, by the unanimous votes, on the tenth of the Calends of May, in the year of our Lord 1073. He shone as the sun in the House of God; for, being mighty in work and word, he applied himself to the renovation of Ecclesiastical discipline, to the propagation of Faith, to the restoration of the Church's Liberty, and to the extirpation of false doctrines and scandals,—but, all this with so much zeal, that it may truly be said, that no Pontiff, since the time of the Apostles, ever laboured or suffered more for God's Church, or fought more strenuously for that same Church's Liberty. He drove simony out of several provinces. He, like a dauntless soldier, bravely withstood the impious designs of the Emperor Henry, and feared not to set himself as a wall for the defence of the house of Israel; and when that same Henry had plunged himself into the abyss of crime, Gregory deprived him of communion with the Faithful, and of his kingdom, and absolved his subjects from their oath of allegiance.
At times, when he was saying Mass, several holy persons saw a dove come down from heaven, rest upon his right shoulder, and cover his head with its wings. Hereby was signified, that Gregory, in governing the Church, was guided by the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, and not by the suggestions of human prudence. When Rome was closely besieged by the wicked Henry's army, the Pontiff, by the sign of the Cross, quenched a conflagration that had been raised by the besiegers. When, afterwards, he was delivered from his enemy by the Norman chieftain, Robert Guiscard, Gregory repaired to Monte Cassino, and thence to Salerno, that he might dedicate the Church of St. Matthew the Apostle. After preaching a sermon to the people of that town, he fell ill, for he was worn out by care. He had the presentiment that this would be his last sickness. The last words of the dying Pontiff were these: “I have loved justice, and hated iniquity: for which cause, I die in exile!” Innumerable were the trials he courageously went through. He held several Synods in the City, and enacted regulations full of wisdom. He was, in all truth, a saintly man, an avenger of crime, and a most vigorous defender of the Church. After a Pontificate of twelve years, he left this earth for heaven, in the year of our Redemption 1085. Many miracles were wrought by him, and through his merit, both before and after his death. His holy remains were buried, with all due honour, in the Cathedral Church of Salerno.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - The Paschal Time, Vol. II, Dublin, Edition 1871; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Pope St. Gregory VII, pray for us.