Wednesday, 12 March 2008

St. Gregory the Great

Today in the 1962 calender and also in Downside Abbey is the Feast of St. Gregory the Great, apostle of the English. Himself a Benedictine monk and the biographer of St. Benedict of Nursia, it was he who sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and his band of Benedictine monks to evangelise the Angles. The legend is that he saw some boys in the slave market of Rome, and when he asked them who they were, they said that they were Angles. 'Not Angles,' he replied, 'but angels.'

From this mission arose the English Benedictine monks, who apart from a hiatus at the reformation, have continued on to this day. When the monasteries were dissolved the lineage was preserved by the last monk of Westminster Abbey, Dom Sigebert Buckley, who aggregated several English monks in Spanish monasteries to the ancient English congregation. From these arose the communities of St. Lawrence (now Ampleforth) and St. Gregory the Great at Douai (now Downside Abbey).

Both of them sent monks on the English mission in penal times, and several of them were to die as martyrs: St. John Roberts, St. Ambrose Barlow, and St. Alban Roe. These communities were expelled from France in the revolution, and settled in England where they remain to this day. Downside which you see above is my alma mater, and today is its' patronal feast. Unfortunately I have not been able to go there this year to celebrate it, as it falls in mid-week.

St. Gregory is also the patron of the liturgical apostolate, and it was he who first codified the liturgical chants of the church which bear his name. It is appropriate that his feast falls nearly 6 months after the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum: an act that he himself would highly approve of. Our present Holy Father Benedict XVI, a great theologian, liturgist and musician himself is very much a Pope in the Gregorian model.

But today also Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue of Lancaster faces a grilling from a parliamentary education select committee, over his document 'fit for mission', which has outraged the secularist establishment. We now have a government that effectively says Catholic schools should not teach Catholicism!

Let us remember him in our prayers and ask for St. Gregory's intercession for our country, for it is now clear that the storm clouds of persecution are gathering, and new penal laws could be on the way. England has fallen back into barbarianism: through St. Gregory the Great may the Angles of our time once again become angels.

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