March 12 Saints of the Day – Gregory Dialogus and Maximilian of Tebessa

On this day in 1884, Mississippi established the first U.S. state college for women. In 1982 it became the last state women’s college to break down and admit men. Sadly the student newspaper was not allowed to call the new male students “co-eds.”

Gregory DialogusThe Orthodox calendar today lists Gregory Dialogus (540 – 604) “the Great,” Pope of Rome. While still on the rising arc of a promising political career, young patrician Gregory sold everything, turned the family home into a monastery, and became a monk. Before too long he was deaconified against his will and sent to Constantinople by Pope Pelagius II (who was not a pelagian), in part to beg for military help in fending off the Lombards (who had heard about the food in Rome and wanted it for themselves, if you get my drift). The Emperor demurred, either because his armies were all busy playing with the Persians, or because he had other diplomatic plans as regards the Lombards; my sources couldn’t agree. Greg knocked around the capital for six years, and got into a theological slugfest with the Patriarch (Eutychus), who opined that resurrected bodies would be lighter than air. Gregory tried to bring him down to earth.

Returning to Rome, he settled back into his monastery and soon became abbot. At one point he met with some Angle youths (from Britain, not Flatland), who were either slave boys for sale, or grown men there voluntarily. He immediately decided the Angles (the ones in Angle Land) needed to hear the Gospel, and headed out to preach it to them. He got about three days out of town when he was hauled back by a delegation from Rome, whose citizens apparently wanted to keep him close to hand. And sure enough, when the Pelagius went on to his reward, Gregory was tapped to be pope. He resisted mightily, even going so far as to write a letter to the Emperor imploring him to reject the election, but it was intercepted, and a schedule of the election sent in its place. He was so horrified of the idea of being pope that while they all waited for the Emperor’s response, he served as interim pope. When the Emperor’s blessing came back, Gregory’s feet once more grew cold, and in the end he was actually physically picked up and carried to St. Peter’s Basilica for the consecration.

Among his works are rewriting of the western liturgy, codifying of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (used in the East), sending Augustine to Canterbury, and getting his name attached to Gregorian Chant, either legitimately or anachronistically. (The Gregorian calendar is the fault of another Gregory.) He is the patron saint of, inter alia, stonemasons.

Maximilian of TebessaThe Catholic calendar today lists Maximilian of Tebessa (274 – 295), sometimes called the first conscientious objector. As the son of a military man, Maximilian was required by Roman law to join the army if called up. He was called up. Among other things he refused to wear the lead dog tags that contained an image of the emperor, considering it idolatry to do so. When he was brought before the proconsul and asked his name, he replied, “Why do you need my name? I’m a Christian and I’m not joining the army.” Told he must serve or die, he said, “Then cut off my head. My army is the army of God; I will not fight for this world.” Told there were Christians in the emperor’s bodyguard, he said, “That is their business” and “they know what’s right for themselves.” (An admirable attitude, I think.) This went back and forth for some time, until finally they said, “Okay we’ll just kill you now,” to which Max replied, “Death shmeath [well, mors schmors]. When I leave this earth, I shall live with Christ.” Just before they lopped off his head, he asked his father to give his new suit of clothes to the executioner. His father went home rejoicing that his son’s soul went to heaven. His son’s body went to Carthage. (There were worse places to be dead in 295.)

This Day in History for 12th March
Mississippi University for Women
Pope St. Gregory I (“the Great”) (Catholic Encyclopedia) – Main source
Pope Gregory I (Wikipedia)
Pope Saint Gregory the Great (SQPN)
Maximilian of Theveste M (RM) (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Maximilian (martyr) (Wikipedia)

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.