In the ordinary Calendar of the Church, today’s Divine Office remembered Pope St. Gregory the Great. A Doctor of the Church, a Holy Father of the Church, a renowned administrator of the Church, and a generally all around brilliant man, this excerpt from one of his Homily’s demonstrates a true humility; he acknowledges his weaknesses, explains his duties. His torment — the carrying of his cross — comes through very clearly. We can all relate somewhat to St. Gregory’s writing here.
From a Homily by St. Gregory the Great…
(Lib. 1, 11, 4-6: CCL 142, 170-172)
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.
Note that a man that the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stand on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height all his life to help them by his foresight.
How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any confidence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching.
I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgement of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge. Indeed when I was in the monastery I could curb my idle talk and usually be absorbed in my prayers. Since I assumed the burden of pastoral care, my mind can no longer be collected; it is concerned with so many matters.
I am forced to consider the affairs of the Church and of the monasteries. I must weigh the lives and acts of individuals. I am responsible for the concerns of our citizens. I must worry about the invasions of roving bands of barbarians, and beware of the wolves who lie in wait for my flock. I must be an administrator lest the religious go in want. I must put up with certain robbers without losing patience and at times I must deal with them in all charity.
With my mind divided and torn to pieces by so many problems, how can I meditate or preach wholeheartedly without neglecting the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel? Moreover, in my position I must often communicate with worldly men. At times I let my tongue run, for if I am always severe in my judgments, the worldly will avoid me, and I can never attract them as I would. As a result I often listen patiently to chatter. And because I too am weak, I find myself drawn little by little into idle conversation, and I begin to talk freely about matter which once I would have avoided. What once I found tedious, I now enjoy.
So who am I to be a watchman, for I do not stand on the mountain of action but lie down in the valley of weakness? Truly the all powerful Creator and Redeemer of mankind can give me in spite of my weaknesses a higher life and effective speech; because I love Him I do no spare myself in speaking of Him.
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