Today the liturgy allows three optional memorials of the Venerable [Saint] Bede, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi or the saint featured St. Gregory VII:
St Gregory VII (1028-85) Cluniac monk, reforming pope
Pope from 1073 to 1085, Gregory "was probably the most energetic and determined man ever to occupy the See of Peter and was driven by an almost mystically exalted vision of the awesome responsibility and dignity of the papal office" (Eamonn Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, p. 121).
Patrick Duffy summarizes his life and significance [cf. www.catholicireland.net].
A disciple of Pope Gregory VI - Born at Sovana, a small town in southern Tuscany, the son of a blacksmith, and christened Hildebrand, he was educated in Rome by the archpriest John Gratian, who in 1045 became Pope Gregory VI.
However, because of a financial deal involved in getting rid of his corrupt predecessor, Gregory was deposed in 1046 by the reforming German king and Holy Roman Emperor Henry III and went into retirement in the Benedictine monastery of Cluny, France. Hildebrand went with his master into exile at Cluny and spent three years there as a monk.
Ambassador of four popes - However, Hildebrand returned to Rome in 1049 to serve the newly elected Pope St Leo IX as papal treasurer. He became a deacon and then prior of the monastery of St Paul's Outside the Walls and was a major influence on the next four popes, all of whom were reformers. He was also successful in various ambassadorial roles.
On the death of Pope Alexander II (1061-73, he was elected pope after popular acclaim by the clergy and people of Rome. He still had to be ordained priest and bishop before he could act as pope.
Conflict with King Henry IV of Germany - Gregory VII immediately set about cleaning up the abuses of simony, clerical concubinage and lay investiture. He demanded that bishops take an oath of obedience to him and threatened those who wouldn't carry out papal decrees. Over the issue of lay investiture he faced opposition from King Philip I of France, William the Conqueror of England and the young King Henry IV of Germany.
Henry, whose father had appointed bishops and popes at will, resented the brusqueness of this new pontiff and gathered "his" bishops at Worms and insisted Gregory be deposed. But Gregory then excommunicated Henry and all the bishops collaborating with him and absolved his subjects from allegiance. Ecclesiastical support for Henry cracked and in 1077 he had to travel to the house of Matilda of Canossa in Italy where Henry was staying to beg the Pope's pardon and absolution. Gregory left Henry standing in humiliation for three days in the snow before eventually pardoning him.
Pyrrhic victory and death - But Gregory's victory was short lived. Henry rallied his forces and in 1080 invaded Italy, captured Rome, declared Gregory deposed. He installed an antipope Guibert of Ravenna as Clement III. Gregory took refuge in Castel Sant'Angelo, invited in the Normans under Robert Guiscard to rescue him. However, the Normans behaved so badly in Rome that the Romans turned on Gregory and forced him to retire first to Monte Cassino and then to Salerno south of Naples where he died.
His last words were famously an adaptation of Psalm 44 (45) verse 7: "I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile".
Papal claims - Gregory's pontificate represents a strong staking out of the papal claim of power over the secular world and though he achieved little, the spirit of papal reform continued and the papacy never receded from its claims to freedom from secular and political control in spiritual matters.
From then on too the pope was presented not just as the vicar of St Peter, but as "the vicar of Christ himself" (Innocent III 1198-1216).
His influence - Gregory's beatification (1585) and canonization (1605) took place at a time when the papacy was in conflict with secular powers - Queen Elizabeth I and James I in England. His feast was extended to the universal Church in 1728, causing some fury among proponents of Gallicanism in France.
He was later seen as a precursor of Vatican I with its definition of papal infallibility as a doctrine. One could perhaps be forgiven for detecting a hint of spin or ideology in his promotion, but the tyrannies of the 20th century bear out the value of his insistence on the freedom of the Church in speaking out on spiritual matters.
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Some scenes from Montee Jeunesse
Young and not so young Catholics express their support for Cardinal Marc Ouellet at Opening Mass at Paroisse Sainte-Famille on Saturday morning
“We come here first to meet Jesus in the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist,” he said, noting how the Youth Summits represent a Eucharistic movement.
“We want to meet Jesus and we want to bear witness that He is among us and gives us Life.”
One text concerned Paul, who was imprisoned. “Paul is a prisoner, but he is free to evangelize. You can be in prison and evangelize. You can be completely cornered. He had no fear.”
He described Jesus, nailed to the Cross, as the ultimate prisoner.
“The one nailed on the Cross, he is prisoner but he is freeing the whole of humanity; he is giving freedom and real life,” he said. “This is the way of the Gospel.”
“We look at Jesus with the eyes of the Spirit,” he said. “Only the Spirit can give us the grace to say Jesus is my Savior.”
The theme of this year’s summit is “sent,” having to do with mission or vocation. Ouellet said that everyone has a gift or vocation. That brought him to the other text which had to do with the question of what might happen to John and Jesus’ answer, what does that have to do with you.
“Nobody is left out,” Ouellet said. “We all have a personal vocation to be with Jesus.”
“Some of us are called to be more publicly exposed,” he said, describing Peter as being called to be in front of the flock and to speak out for the flock.
“Others are behind. John is behind. Peter is the symbol of ministry; John is the symbol of love, pure love, the loving response to the love of Jesus.”
(Thanks to Deborah Gyapong for the photo and this blog she posted at www.theanglocatholic.com)
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Except when Mass was being offered upstairs in the cathedral basilica, Eucharistic adoration took place 24/7 in the lower-level Archbishops' Chapel during the Montee Jeunesse: here a group prays silently on Sunday afternoon
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Matt Maher and his band pose with the Keith Doucette family (like Maher, Doucette has Newfoundland roots) [photo courtesy K. Doucette]