St. Gregory, born at Rome about the year 540, was the son of Gordianus, a wealthy senator, who later renounced the world and became one of the seven deacons of Rome. After he had acquired the usual thorough education, Emperor Justin the Younger appointed him, in 574, Chief Magistrate of Rome, though he was only thirty-four years of age.
After the death of his father, he built six monasteries in Sicily and founded a seventh in his own house in Rome, which became the Benedictine Monastery of St. Andrew. Here, he himself assumed the monastic habit in 575, at the age of thirty-five.
After the death of Pelagius, St. Gregory was chosen Pope by the unanimous consent of priests and people. Now began those labors which merited for him the title of Great. His zeal extended over the entire known world, he was in contact with all the Churches of Christendom and, in spite of his bodily sufferings, and innumerable labors, he found time to compose a great number of works. He is known above all for his magnificent contributions to the Liturgy of the Mass and Office. He is one of the four great Doctors of the Latin Church. He died March 12, 604. He is the patron of teachers.
Of particular interest to English Christians, especially those in the Ordinariate, he famously said Non Angli, sed angeli – "They are not Angles, but angels". Aphorism, summarizing words reported to have been spoken by Gregory when he first encountered pale-skinned English boys at a slave market, sparking his dispatch of St. Augustine of Canterbury to England to convert the English, according to Bede. He said: "Well named, for they have angelic faces and ought to be co-heirs with the angels in heaven." Discovering that their province was Deira, he went on to add that they would be rescued de ira, "from the wrath", and that their king was named Aella, Alleluia, he said.
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