This week we mark the memorial of St. Gregory the Great, one of the saints from Redeeming Administration who has left the most lasting impression on me. Mostly because when he found out he’d been elected pope, legend has it that he hid himself in a wicker basket, had himself lowered over the walls of the city and escaped to the forest for three days before the people tracked him town and yanked him back. Some of us hear God’s voice to leadership and say, “Here I am, Lord.” Some of us take for the woods.
In Gregory’s case, the hesitation was quite understandable. He attempted to serve the people of God during one of the most depressing eras in world history. A couple of months ago I listened to a fascinating Radio Lab episode answering the question, “What was the worst year to be alive in recorded history?” Their answer: 536 AD. This is four years before Gregory was born and things didn’t improve much during his life time. He tried to lead through flood, famine, plague, and constant invasions. When he died at the age of 64, he had reason to believe that the world was coming to an end… and yet 1400+ years later, his memory lives on and he is regarded as one of the first four “Doctors of the Church.” For some reason learning more about his life… and just all that was going on in his time (as revealed by the Radio Lab podcast) did instill in me a sense of hope. His life reminds me to take the long view which I talk about a little more here (see preaching for September 3).
In imitation of Gregory, I plan to take to the woods shortly. Not because I’ve been elected pope but because I’m going to hide out as a resident scholar at the Collegeville Institute for the fall semester. If it gets as cold as I’ve heard it can get in northern Minnesota, I might not make it three days before I find myself back in the city. But I think I should be able to make it at least through the months of September and October… we’ll have to see about November and December. (I’ve lived in the south for quite a while now and don’t have many warm clothes!) I will be working on a new book called Redeeming Power – a series of biblical meditations on the right exercise of power and influence. I would appreciate all the prayers you can send. I am really looking forward to this time away.
Bonus for the week: All of the talks from this past summer’s Marten Preaching Conference at Notre Dame are now available to view for free online. My presentation was on engaging Ignatian contemplation in preaching preparation. There are lots of wonderful additional offerings as well from Fr. Don Senior, Rita Ferrone, Tom Long, Jude Siciliano and Catherine Hilkert, etc… etc… too many good people to name. Enjoy!