Saint Gregory Nazianzen (329 – 390) was born near the village of Arianzum in what is today north-eastern Turkey. His parents were well-off land owners who provided him with an excellent education. He studied in the cities of Nazianzus, Caesarea, where he met the future Saint Basil the Great and with whom he forged a deep friendship, Alexandria, and Athens, where he made the acquaintance of Julian, who would later become emperor of Rome and be known as Julian the Apostate.
St Gregory’s great desire was to become a monk and live a life of seclusion and prayer. However, when at around the age of thirty he returned home, his father, who was then Bishop of Nazianzus, requested that Gregory help him manage his see. Upon the insistence of his friend St Basil, and against his will, he accepted this task and allowed his father to ordain him a priest. Arianism had spread throughout Christendom during that period in history and his father’s diocese was now divided by this evil. St Gregory healed the division through his inspired preaching and writing, bringing all back to the Catholic faith. At this time, he also wrote a treatise, Invectives Against Julian, directed at Emperor Julian who had by then apostatized. The Emperor resolved to prosecute St Gregory for his criticism of him but died before he could do so.
When his father passed away, St Gregory continued to administer the diocese of Nazianzus but refused to be named its bishop. He was then called to Constantinople to assist in its struggle against Arianism. Here, he taught and preached at a little chapel converting many to the faith due to his personal holiness and skill as a preacher. The Arians, angered by his success, attacked the little church on the Vigil of Easter while he baptized catechumens, wounding him and killing a bishop. St Gregory, undaunted, persevered in his ministry. The persecutions subsided when, in the year 380, Emperor Theodosius, after being baptized, ordered his subjects to adhere to the Catholic faith and determined that St Gregory should be bishop of Constantinople. Soon thereafter, in 381, St Gregory resigned his post due to poor health and to the disagreement among fellow prelates as to whether he should be confirmed as Bishop of Constantinople.
He then returned home where he resumed the care of the See of Nazianzus. In 383 he retired to a little plot of land, all that remained to him after he had given away his wealth, and spent the remainder of his days in writing and prayer. He died in 390 and is a Doctor of the Church.