St. Gregory, Thaumaturgus
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
Feast Day: November 17th
St. Gregory, bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, was born in that city, of rich but heathen parents. He is called Thaumaturgus, or Worker of Wonders, on account of the many and great miracles which he wrought during his life. He was naturally inclined to be good, and was filled with an intense desire to gain knowledge; therefore, on coming to riper years, he went to Caesarea in Palestine, and thence to Alexandria, to study the liberal arts. The reading of heathen books disgusted him with paganism; for he learned by it how weak and unstable its doctrines are; and at the same time, becoming acquainted with the true faith by reading some Christian books, he began highly to esteem Christianity.PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS.
He led a blameless life and especially abhorred the vice of unchastity, so general among the heathens. This displeased some of his fellow students, and they persuaded a wicked woman, to ask him, in the presence of many others, the money that he had promised her. This was done at the moment when Gregory, in the presence of a great crowd of people, was disputing on some subject with some other learned men. All were startled at the woman's words, as they had never heard anything wrong of Gregory. The latter best knew his own innocence, but would neither talk to the woman, nor allow himself to be disturbed in his disputation. He quietly requested one of his friends to give her as much money as she demanded; but she had hardly got it, when the Evil One took possession of her, and tormented her so that she howled terribly, made a public confession of her wickedness and begged Gregory's pardon. The young man, although he had not received holy baptism, called with confidence on the God of the Christians and relieved the possessed. Thus did the Almighty save Gregory, and bring the wickedness of his enemies to shame. This incited him anew not to delay any longer to embrace Christianity.
After he had been baptized, he endeavored to live in accordance with the promises he had made, and to conform his actions entirely to the maxims of the Christian faith. He continued his studies for several years, and then returned to his home, where he passed his time in solitude, prayer and meditation. To those who visited him he spoke rarely of other things than the blindness of idolatry, the truth of the Christian faith, the beauty of virtue, and the horror of vice, which caused him to be highly esteemed by the inhabitants of the city, although most of them were heathens. Phasdimus, bishop of Amasea, informed of this, resolved to consecrate Gregory bishop of Neo-Caesarea. The humble servant of the Lord endeavored to avoid this honor by flight; but Phaedimus was firm in his resolution and declared Gregory, in the presence of all the people, bishop of the city, and thus silenced all further objections. At that time, there were only seventeen Christians in the city and all the other inhabitants were idolaters.
Before the new bishop commenced his functions, he retired for several days into solitude, where he prayed to God to bestow upon him, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the grace to lead his small flock in the right path, and to increase its small number by converting the heathen. During his prayers the Virgin Mother appeared to him, in the night, accompanied by St. John, whom she commanded to instruct Gregory, how to conduct himself and to teach others. Having received these instructions, St. Gregory left his solitude, comforted and strengthened, and began to labor for the conversion of the heathens. The miracles he wrought had the happiest results. Before he entered the city, he was obliged to take shelter, with his companion, in the most celebrated heathen temple, where Satan, speaking through the idols, answered various questions. Gregory passed the whole night in prayer, and, making the sign of the cross over the whole building, he drove Satan away. When the chief of the idolatrous priests came, on the following day, with his sacrifice, he heard before the temple a terrible howling of the devils, who lamented that, driven away by Gregory, they could not return into their old dwelling. The heathens ran after the bishop and complained of what he had done. Gregory improved the opportunity, to explain to them the power of the Christian God, in whose name he had driven away Satan and his legions, but could also force him to return. Of this the heathen priest desired a proof. Gregory wrote on the tablet the word " Enter," gave it to the idolatrous priest, and told him to lay it on the Altar, and then, he added, the devils will be obliged to return to the temple, in the name of Jesus. The heathen did as he was told, and as all happened as the bishop had said, he recognized the power of the Christian God, was converted with his wife and children, and received holy baptism.
This first conversion was daily followed by others. As the number of the Christians greatly increased in this manner, the Saint resolved to build a church. The place was selected, but a high mountain prevented him from giving the building the dimensions he desired. In this emergency, the bishop had recourse to prayer, and the mountain, by the power of God, retired, in the presence of a multitude of heathens and Christians, as far back as was needed. This and many other miracles which the Saint almost daily wrought, had such influence over the minds of the pagans, that they came in crowds to be baptized, and in all their troubles they asked his advice. The river Lycus, which flowed by the city, was frequently so swollen, that the surrounding fields were overflowed, with great damage. Some of the sufferers came and asked the bishop to help them. Going with them, he first prayed; then he stuck his staff into the ground near the bank of the river. The staff took root immediately, and since that time, the river has never overstepped the place thus marked. Two brothers quarreled on account of a pond abounding in fishes. Each desired to be the possessor of it, and they became so embittered, that they intended to kill each other. Gregory succeeded several times in calming them, but on seeing that this never lasted long, he prayed to God to end the contention, and in the same night, the whole pond so thoroughly dried up, that neither water nor fishes were to be seen. In this manner, peace was restored between the brothers.
How highly the Saint was esteemed for these and other miracles can easily be supposed, although he endeavored to decline all honors, by ascribing his wonders to a holy relic which he always carried with him. But the more he fled from human praise, the more was he venerated and loved. Still there were some who disliked him and who even dared to mock him. Among these were two Jews, one of whom, pretending to be dead, laid himself down in a place where the Saint was to pass. The other remained standing there also, and when Gregory came, he began to weep and lament for his dear dead friend, begging the Saint to give him an alms to enable him to bury him. The intention of these deceivers was to deride the bishop on account of his miracles, and to make others laugh at him. Gregory, who had no money with him, gave the man his cloak and went on. Rejoiced at having thus deceived the Saint, the man called his pretended dead companion, telling him to rise ; but found, to his horror, that the man was really dead. Many volumes would hardly suffice to contain all the miracles wrought by the holy man on the possessed and the sick, and to recount the labors he undertook to propagate the true faith.
After a long, well spent and holy life, he felt, at last, that his end was approaching, and visiting once more his whole diocese, he redoubled his zeal in instructing his flock, admonished all to constancy, and endeavored to practice more good works then ever before. Soon after, he fell sick, and ended his days by a happy death. Shortly before closing his eyes, he asked if there were yet some in the city who had not received holy baptism. " Seventeen," was the answer. The Saint, already in his agony, raised his eyes to heaven and said: " Thanks and praise to God ! When I took possession of my See, I found only seventeen Christians. May God preserve all in the true faith, and give to all infidels, in the whole world, the light of the Savior's divine Word!" The death of St. Gregory took place in the seventieth year of his age, and the 270th of the Christian Era.
I. St. Gregory took especial care to keep the promise he had made when receiving holy baptism. In baptism, we renounce Satan and all his works, and make an alliance with God, by the promise that we will serve Him and keep His commandments. This alliance we break as often as we commit a mortal sin. How is it with you? Have you kept your promise? May not the words of St. Bernard be applied to you?" You have renounced the devil and yet you serve him. You have renounced his works, and yet strive only after that which is evil. "You have promised to serve God alone and to keep His commandments; and yet you do in everything the contrary. Ah! be ashamed before your God and weep bitter tears for your perjury. Renew your baptismal vows and be in the future true to them. "When the priest asked you: do you renounce the devil and all his works, what was your answer? I renounce them. Remember these words and let them never part from your memory," says St. Ambrose.
I will take this occasion to give you another instruction. Many who are not Catholics refuse to be converted, because they are told that they must not break their baptismal vows. But they ought to know that they do not break them by becoming Catholics; for, by their baptism they made an alliance with the true Christ and the true Church. This true Church is the Catholic Church only ; hence by becoming Catholics, they only fulfill the vow they made. They broke it when, after coming to the use of reason, they gave their free consent to a false religion, and thus fell into heresy. By turning from this error and becoming Catholics, they renew their first alliance with the true Church of Christ, and thus fulfill the first promise made for them when they were baptized.
Prayer from the Liturgical Year, 1901
O holy Pontiff, thy faith, removing mountains and commanding the waves, was a justification of our Lord's promise. Teach us in our turn to do honour to the Gospel, by never doubting of our Lord's word and of the help He promises us against Satan, whom the Church points out to us today as the proud mountain that is to be cast into the sea; and also against the overflowing tide of our passions, and the enticements of the world, of which thy writings teach us the vanity. After the victory let us not forget that the succour came to us from heaven; preserve us from ingratitude, which thou didst so detest. We still possess the touching eulogy dictated by thy gratitude towards the illustrious master, to whose teachings, under God, thou didst owe the glorious strength and splendour of thy faith. Here is a precious and practical lesson for all: while praising divine Providence in the man who was his predestined instrument in thy regard, thou didst not forget the homage due to the Angel of God, who had preserved thee from falling into the abyss, during the darkness of infidelity in which thy first years were spent; that heavenly Guardian who, ever watchful in his active, enlightened, persevering devotedness, supplies for our insufficiencies, nourishes and instructs us, leads us by the hand, and secretly arranges for our souls those blessed circumstances and occasions, which transform our life and secure eternal happiness.
How can we sinful creatures sufficiently thank the Author of all good, the infinite Being Who gives to man both the holy Angels and the visible intermediaries of divine grace on earth? But let us take courage, for we have as our Head his own Son, His Word Who saved our souls, and Who rules the universe. He alone, and that without effort, can render to His Father unceasing, eternal thanksgiving, for Himself and for us all, without risk of not knowing or of forgetting the least subject of gratitude, without fear of any imperfection in the manner or the magnitude of His praise. To Him, then, to the divine Word, we commit as thou didst, O Gregory, the care of perfecting the expression of our gratitude for the unspeakable kindness of our heavenly Father; for the Word is to us, as to thee, the only channel of piety, gratitude, and love. May He give us in these days pastors who will imitate thy works; and may He raise up again the ancient churches of the East, which once received such light from thee!
by Bishop Richard Challoner (18th Century)
This solemn renouncing of Satan, and his works, raid his pomps, in the receiving of baptism, is a practice as ancient as the church itself, and in a particular manner requires our attention: because it is a promise and vow that we make to God, by which we engage ourselves to abandon the party of the devil, to have nothing to do with his works, that is, with the works of darkness and sin; and to cast away from us his pomps, that is, the maxims and vanities of the world. It is a covenant we make with God, by which we, on our parts, promise him our allegiance, and to fight againstHis enemies: and He, on His part, promises us life everlasting, if we are faithful to our engagements. But in the moment we break this solemn covenant by wilful sin, we lose both the grace of baptism, and all that title to an eternal inheritance which we received in baptism, together with the digmty of children of God; and become immediately slaves to the devil, and children of hell.A Renewal of Baptismal Vows
A Manual of Prayer, 1889
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, One God, I mourn and lament my most sinful neglect of the sacred promise and vow which was made in my name at my Baptism. I lament my long-continued transgressions, my ingratitude, my coldness and hardness of heart. O Lord, Who art the great Searcher of hearts, and from whom no secrets are hid, in Thy presence I do most freely, fully, and unfeignedly, from henceforth and forevermore, repent of and renounce all my sins; I resolve, to the utmost of the power Thou givest me, to resist all the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh, so that I may never willingly be led by them. I do firmly believe, and will, by Thy help, continue in the belief of all the Articles of the Christian Faith; and I am resolved, in all sincerity of heart, to keep Thy holy Will and Commandments, and to persevere, through the help of Thy grace, to the end of my life. Enlighten and strengthen me, O God, by Thy Holy Spirit, to perform this my vow and covenant. Preserve me as a living and faithful Member of Thy Church, a dutiful and dear child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven; that through Thy mercy I may in Thy good time obtain the end of my faith, even the salvation of my soul. Amen.
Prayer to Our Holy Patron Saint of Baptism
O Glorious St. _______, whose name I have the honor to bear, who wast given me in baptism as a protector and a pattern, and who, although secure of thy own immortal bliss, art nevertheless solicitous about my happiness, assist me by thy powerful intercession, as thou instructest me by the example of thy holy life; for I truly can behold in thy life, as in a bright mirror, what I am to correct in myself, and what I am to practice. Thou hast been, like me, subject to sufferings, encompassed with infirmities, assaulted with temptations; but thou hast surmounted the rage and persecutions of the world, despised its allurements, and triumphed over its malignity. Obtain by thy prayers that I may he endowed with thy spirit, and become a faithful follower of Christ. On the day in which I was buried together with Christ by baptism unto death, thou wast given me for a witness and a guardian of my engagements. I beseech thee, therefore, that thou assist me in thy prayers for me to God, that I may hold fast the confession of my hope without wavering, and that, laboring to make sure by good works my vocation and election, I may obtain the prize of the celestial vocation of God, in Christ Jesus. Amen.