I hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine was fulsome –conclusion of CEEP conference, flew home Saturday night, participated in worship at St. Stephen’s yesterday, then drove up to the Duncan Center in Delray Beach for a workshop on something called “Pinterist” today and a diocesan committee meeting tomorrow. When I arrived at the DC yesterday around 4:40 I took a nap, then when I woke up instead of going to dinner I read a bit then fell asleep again until 7:30 this am. I guess I was a “bit” tired! Learned so much at CEEP, will take a few days to digest it all. Lots of insights about the future of the church, how to build our endowment, stewardship — and a whole lot more. I guess it really is true one is never too old to keep learning.
So on to today’s match-up between Gregory the Great and Martin of Tours. Then after today we only have 2 more first round brackets before we start the Saintly 16. Those promise to be a doozy — as, for example Friday’s win of Frances Perkins over Father Damien moves her ahead to go toe to toe with MLK. Yikes! If you’ve lost track of how the brackets are shaping up, go here — the supreme executive committee (or as I learned this weekend, the “SEC”) has kindly provided an on-going status.
Gregory the Great was born to a wealthy Roman family in 540. This was a time of great upheaval as the Roman Empire was in severe decline. One could call it a VUCA time (a term I learned at the CEEP conference from one of our keynoters, futurist Bob Johansen. It stands for “Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous”). Gregory (who obviously wasn’t called “The Great” during his lifetime…) had great skill as an administrator and served as a prefect of the city of Rome for awhile until he renounced it all to live as a monk in Sicily. The pope at the time, against Gregory’s will, called him back to Rome and ordained him as a deacon. He was sent off to Byzantium (present day Istanbul), the other capital of the Empire, to plead for help and protection for Rome from the various barbarian hordes.
After returning to Rome he once again resumed a quiet life of writing and study, but that didn’t last long because he was eventually elected pope (and, against his will). His liturgical contributions remain as part of the order of worship to this day (Gregorian chant was named after him, though much later), he was a great advocate for the rights of the poor, and after encountering British slaves in Rome he had compassion for them and dispatched Augustine to England as a missionary. As the write-up in Lent Madness says “but for his compassion, we might still be worshiping gods with names like Woden and Tiw.” Shortly after his death in 604 he was canonized; John Calvin called him “the last great pope.”
Martin of Tours was born in 330 to pagan parents. His father, a soldier, enlisted Martin in the Roman army at age 15 (yikes!). One day he saw a beggar at the gate of the city of Amiens in France. Martin had no money to give him so he cut his cloak in half and gave it to the man. That night he had a dream in which Christ was wearing the same cloak; that inspired him to be baptized, leave the army (though he was imprisoned for a while for desertion) and dedicate his life to Christ. He eventually founded a monastery (which remained up until the French Revolution) and subsequently was appointed Bishop of Tours.
Martin is the patron saint of soldiers and also of chaplains. From the website of the International Association of Christian Chaplains: “When he related the story (about sharing his cloak) to others, the remaining half of the cape became a relic and an object of value as a reminder of the event. The cape (Latin cappa) was kept in a special container made for it. The container was called the cappella. Thus, we get the term chapel-that place where the robe of Christ is shared, not stored. The keeper of the cape was known as the cappellanus (the keeper of the cape). The cappellanus, is where we get the word chaplain, for chaplains are the ones who share God’s love and care with those in need wherever people are. Thus, pastoral care refers to the ministry offered by men and women committed to foster the psycho-social-spiritual growth and shalom of each human being God sends to them.” Who knew? Well, now you do!
Musings: In this one I have to go with Gregory. I am certainly inspired by Martin’s story and the fact that chaplains of all stripes take their inspiration from him (at one point in my journey I had contemplated becoming an army chaplain, but that’s another story for another day…), but I think Gregory’s impact is more far-reaching. As Anglicans we owe him a lot (in that epiphany he had about the plight of the Anglo-Saxon slaves Gregory actually said “Non Angli, sed angeli — “They are not Angles, but angels” — what’s not to love about that! Beyond just his compassion for the English and the sending of Augustine (not to be confused with Augustine of Hippo…) who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, Gregory is an great example of how to be a faithful Christian leader in times of uncertainty and upheaval.