St. Gregory the Great was a pope who lived in the second half of the 6th century and the beginning of the 7th. He’s been honored with the title “Great” because he had a profound and lasting influence on the Church and the world of his time. (It’s the same reason, I believe, that St. John Paul II should be called “Great.”)
But Pope Gregory had a problem. He found it very difficult to carry out his spiritual duties while dealing with the temporal problems, the administrative demands of his office. In a homily that’s found in the Office of Readings on his feast day, September 3rd, we find this:
“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 the monasteries. I must weigh the lives and acts of individuals . . . With my mind divided and torn to pieces by so many problems, how can I meditate or preach wholeheartedly without neglecting my ministry of proclaiming the Gospel?”
It’s a complaint I often hear from pastors – the frustration of handling the duties of administration. Raising money, paying bills, dealing with employees, fixing roofs and paving parking lots – these are burdens for our priests. “I wasn’t ordained for these things,” they say.
But indeed they, we, were ordained for these things because they’re part of administration, and administration is needed to form and lead a community. It’s what a shepherd, what a leader, does.
And having to deal with temporal affairs isn’t unique to spiritual leaders. Parents have to handle these things too. I’m sure that taking care of the house, fixing the car, managing the budget, cutting the grass and shoveling the snow aren’t the things that parents most enjoy. But, moms and dads do these things because it’s part of their vocation; because they have homes and families, and need to care for them both.
The challenge for Christians is learning how to manage the realities of this world without neglecting the spiritual life. So we strive to navigate this world while keeping our eyes fixed on heaven. We work and we pray. We’re Martha, taking care of the house, and Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus. It’s a tricky road to travel. It was for Pope Gregory and it is for us as well.
Something to think about: How do you handle the realities of this world without losing your spiritual vision, your Christian calling?