Reflection: Saint Gregory Pope of Rome, Guide for Spiritual Leadership
by Hieromonk Innocent of St. John Monastery, Manton
Soon, our Church will enter the great season of the Fast. As we empty the meat and dairy sections of our refrigerators, we may be a little apprehensive of the long weeks of Lent that lie before us. How easy it is to forget all the good things that happen to our souls as we set aside our many cares, quiet down and focus a little more on God. The service of the Presanctified Gifts embodies what is good and deep and meaningful about this season of repentance. Candles flickering in the dim light, the chanting of the Psalms, the journey through Genesis and Proverbs, the choir singing “Let My Prayer Arise”, and the hunger pangs of our fasting all blend together to humble us, to slow us down. We can be thankful that a fifth-century Pope of Rome developed and instituted this evening liturgy as a way to strengthen us and spur us on to the repentance and spiritual growth that we seek during these forty days. Yet St Gregory has given us more than this beautiful, lenten liturgy. He also wrote The Book of Pastoral Rule to inspire spiritual leadership and raise shepherds for his flock.
In 6th century Rome, Pope Gregory faced a problem. Candidates for bishops and parish priests were scarce, yet there were many ascetics who were qualified, yet reluctant to leave their seclusion. To address this pressing issue, Gregory wrote The Book of Pastoral Rule. In his wonderful book, he details the stringent requirements of the spiritual director, yet invites the ascetic not to hide his talent but to step up to the task of leading Christ's flock. Gregory graciously shares his experience with this would-be pastor by providing an encyclopedic description of nearly every conceivable human situation and personality-type and how best to advise and treat each condition. Compassion and discernment shines through this unprecedented sixth century work as the pontiff brings a wealth of experience to beginner spiritual fathers as they follow the Chief Shepherd and endeavor to feed and guide His rational flock.