Born near the middle of the sixth century into a noble Roman family, Gregory received a classical education in liberal arts and the law. He also had strong religious formation from his devout family, particularly from his mother, Silvia, also a canonized saint. By around age 30, Gregory had advanced to high political office in Rome, during what was nevertheless a period of marked decline for the city. Some time after becoming the prefect of the former imperial capital, Gregory chose to leave the civil administration to become a monk during the rise of the Benedictine order He returned to Rome after six years of service as the Papal representative to the eastern Church and empire. Rome faced a series of disasters caused by flooding in 589, followed by the death of Pope Pelagius II the next year. Gregory, then serving as abbot in a monastery, reluctantly accepted his election to replace him as the Bishop of Rome. Despite this initial reluctance, however, Pope Gregory began working tirelessly to reform and solidify the Roman liturgy, the disciplines of the Church, the military and economic security of Rome, and the Church's spreading influence in western Europe. In undertaking these works, Pope Gregory saw himself as the “servant of the servants of God.” He was the first of the Bishops of Rome to popularize the now-traditional Papal title, which referred to Christ's command that those in the highest position of leadership should be “the last of all and the servant of all.”
Even as he undertook to consolidate Papal power and shore up the crumbling Roman west, St. Gregory the Great maintained a humble sense of his mission as a servant and pastor of souls, from the time of his election until his death.
Father, you guide your people with kindness and govern us with love. By the prayers of Saint Gregory give the spirit of wisdom to those you have called to lead your Church. May growth of your people in holiness be the eternal joy of your shepherds. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.