Feast of Saint Gregory the Great

Saint Gregory the Great, unknown, 1320-50, Verona, Italy.

None venture to teach any art unless they have learned it after deep thought. With what rashness, then, would the pastoral office be undertaken by the unfit, seeing that the government of souls is the art of arts! For who does not realize that the wounds of the mind are more hidden than the internal wounds of the body? Yet, although those who have no knowledge of the powers of drugs shrink from giving themselves out as physicians of the body, people who are utterly ignorant of spiritual precepts are often not afraid of professing themselves to be physicians of the heart, and though, by divine ordinance, those now in the highest positions are disposed to show a regard for religion, there are some who aspire to glory and esteem by an outward show of authority within the church. They crave to appear as teachers and covet ascendancy over others, and, as the Truth attests: They seek the first salutations in the marketplace, the first places at feasts and the first chairs in the synagogues.

These persons are all the more unfit to administer worthily what they have under­taken. They have attained to the tutorship of humility by vanity alone, for one thing is learned and another thing is taught. Against these the Lord complains by the mouth of the Prophet: They have reigned not by me; they have been princes and I knew not. They reign by their own conceit, not by the will of God; they are sustained by no virtues, are not divinely called, but being inflamed by their cupidity, they seize rather than attain supreme rule.

It is for this reason that Christ says in the Gospel: If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit. Consequently, the Psalmist in his ministry as Prophet, but not as expressing a wish, says: Let their eyes be darkened that they see not and their back bend down to you always. For those persons are ‘eyes’ who, set in the forefront of the highest dignity, have undertaken the duty of showing the way, while those who follow on and are attached to them are termed the ‘back’. When the eyes are blinded, the back is bent, for when those who go before lose the light of knowledge, those who follow are bowed down in carrying the burden of their sins.

(From the Book of Pastoral Care by Gregory the Great)

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