Gregory the Great - Dialogues on the Miracles of the Italian Fathers
In the late sixth century, St. Gregory the Great was torn from his small monastic community and elevated to the papacy. As Bishop of Rome, he was responsible not only for spiritual affairs but also for the temporal affairs of the city and much of the Italian peninsula—food, the provisioning of the ineffective army, and negotiations with the fierce Lombard invaders. His Dialogues begin as he tells his deacon Peter that he no longer has time or opportunity to go forth in spirit to seek the face of God in contemplative prayer. Peter, hoping to console him, declares that nobody in this tumultuous age enjoys close communion with God. Peter’s good-natured despair rouses Gregory to develop, through a series of stories in rebuttal to Peter’s claim, a theology of intimacy with God while immersed in temporal affairs. Monks, politicians, busy bishops and farmers—all have worked miracles, have become “one spirit with God” through love, and have even glimpsed his light in prayer. Gregory’s crowning achievement, the Life of St. Benedict forms the second of the four books, while his stirring depiction of various Eucharistic miracles gives a theology in story of the marriage between heaven and earth. By the end of the Dialogues, we may hope that Gregory convinced himself; he certainly will convince the reader.