Pope Gregory And Pope Benedict?


Well it sure makes for an interesting parallel:

No one could doubt that this Holy Father has meditated profoundly, and I expect repeatedly, on The Pastoral Rule of St. Gregory the Great—that sixth-century handbook for those who hold the highest spiritual authority, what Benedict and others have called the ars artium (“the art of arts”).  Much of the book is a warning against the wrong reasons for grasping or holding on to power, followed by an outline of the virtues needed to exercise leadership well.  In the first book of The Pastoral Rule we find this line, which I believe has quietly echoed for some weeks in the Holy Father’s thoughts:  “He must be a man whose aims are not thwarted by the frailty of his body.”  The office of Peter is not a spiritual thing which discounts human nature.  That sacred ministry resides with a person, but that person must have the nature to exercise its rigors.

In 2008, in one of the Holy Father’s General Audiences, Benedict spoke on St. Gregory, a former monk who reluctantly assumed the papacy:

Gregory remained a simple monk in his heart and therefore was decidedly opposed to great titles.  He wanted to be—and this is his expression—servus servorum Dei. Coined by him, this phrase was not just a pious formula on his lips but a true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ made himself our servant. He washed and washes our dirty feet. Therefore, he was convinced that a Bishop, above all, should imitate this humility of God and follow Christ in this way.  His desire was to live truly as a monk, in permanent contact with the Word of God, but for love of God he knew how to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulation and suffering. He knew how to make himself the “servant of the servants.”  Precisely because he was this, he is great and also shows us the measure of true greatness.

One line from Benedict’s comments stands out: “His desire was to live truly as a monk…” Perhaps the same, in slightly modified form, could be said for the former professor and scholar. His temperament and abilities, not unlike Rowan Williams in the Church of England, always were slightly at odds with the practical demands of his office. This profile of Williams by Paul Elie is really worth re-reading.