I Thessalonians 2.2-8; Psalm 95; Matthew 16.13-19
The story that Pope St Gregory the Great (c540-604), seeing British boys offered for sale in the Roman slave market, declared them “not Angles but Angels” is probably a pious fiction. Certainly, however, Gregory, who grew up in the wake of the dissolution of the western Roman empire, felt a compelling zeal to bring the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
Gregory was of patrician stock and entered upon a career as a civil servant, becoming Præfectus Urbi (“first man of the city”) by 573. After a period as Pope Pelagius’ legate to Constantinople, however, upon Pelagius’ death in 590 he was chosen to be Pope. Gregory complained that “an ape was being forced to become a lion” but eventually acceded to the office. He was undoubtedly the most formidable churchman at the hinge between the Patristic and the Middle Ages, and the popular acclaim for his immediate canonisation upon his death is evidence of his effectiveness and influence. Central to his life is his struggle to integrate the competing demands of action and contemplation. His theological and pastoral writings led to his being declared a Doctor (“teacher”) of the Church.