Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Thaumaturgist

Our Father among the Saints, Gregory the Thaumaturgist, Bishop of Neocæsarea in Pontus.

I've had a soft spot for St Gregory the Wonderworker (c. 213 -c. 270) ever since Fr Greg, a pleasant and patient priest, told us some years back that he'd been named by his staunchly Catholic parents after, not St Gregory the Great, but this miraculous saint, on whose feast he'd been born.  

(Fr Greg also told us about the sum total of the preparation made in his parish for the liturgical changes, insofar as he recalled from his childhood: to the amazement of all, their parish priest paused at the altar rails rather than ducking straight back into the sacristy after Sunday Low Mass, turned to the congregation, and baldly announced that "Next Sunday, Mass will be in English.  Booklets are available for one shilling at the Catholic Bookshop." )

To-day, I had the unusual privilege of serving an afternoon Mass in a private house, since Fr Rowe had agreed to provide this for an aged parishioner on her birthday.  (Beforehand, Fr remarked that he was needful of the intercession of the Wonderworker, he has so much to get done!  I suggested we really ought get a statue of him for St Anne's...)

So I served Low Mass of St Gregory; the texts are wholly from the Common of Confessor Bishops (Statuit) but for the Gospel, St Mark xi, 22-24 - which is proposed on account of St Gregory's great faith, on account of which in very truth he was able to move a mountain that a church might be built without being impeded thereby.  Guéranger adds, echoing St Bede the Venerable, that Satan is that proud mountain which shall be cast into the sea; and relates that when a priest of idols saw St Gregory's mastery over the same demons that in heathen blindness that priest had served, he embraced the Faith of Christ, and went with the holy Pontiff as his deacon!

St Gregory is famous for his life and labours and doctrine, such as his sterling Confession of Faith in the Trinity, which, we are told, was revealed to him in a vision - the first ever recorded - of the Holy Mother of God as well as St John Evangelist.  Likewise is he famous for his miracles, as his immemorial cognomen or moniker testifies, and not least among them the following moral miracle, which the Breviary relates: upon his deathbed, he enquired, How many remain pagans in this city? and was told, But seventeen; Glory to God, he exclaimed, That was the sum total of the Christians when I became bishop here!

Truly this saint was a true bishop, a true overseer of the sheep of Christ, a very Gregory (Γρηγοριος), that is, ever one to be awake and watchful (γρηγρέω), on guard over his flock through every trial and persecution (the Decian above all, during which all believers fled to the hills, and the Gothic invasion of Pontus); and by the grace of God, to confirm the Gospel tidings he preached for the conversion and salvation of unbelievers, to work (ἔργω) marvels, signs and wonders (θαῦμα) was his special talent.

(If you wish to read more of St Gregory, turn to Butler.)

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