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Saint Gregory Nazianzen

Saint Gregory Nazianzen

Saint Gregory Nazianzen (329 – 390) was born near the village of Arianzum in what today is north-eastern Turkey. His parents were well-off landowners who provided him with an excellent education. He studied in the cities of Nazianzus, Caesarea, Alexandria, and Athens. In Nazianzus, Gregory met St Basil, with whom he forged a deep friendship. In Athens, 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 he returned home at around the age of 30, 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 own desires, he accepted this task and allowed his father to ordain him a priest. Arianism had spread throughout Christendom during that period, and the diocese became divided by this evil. St Gregory healed the division through his inspired preaching and writing, bringing all back to the Catholic faith. He also wrote a treatise, Invectives Against Julian, directed at Emperor Julian, who had by then apostatized. The emperor resolved to prosecute St Gregory but died before he could carry out his purpose.

When his father passed away, St Gregory continued to administer the diocese of Nazianzus but refused to be named its bishop. The archbishop of Antioch then called him to Constantinople to assist in the struggle raging there against Arianism. In that city, he preached and taught, converting many. Angered by his success, the Arians attacked the church where he was celebrating the Vigil of Easter, wounding him and killing a bishop. St Gregory, undaunted, persevered in his ministry. The persecutions subsided when Emperor Theodosius ordered his subjects to adhere to the Catholic faith and determined that St Gregory should be bishop of Constantinople.

In 381, only one year after being consecrated a prelate, St Gregory resigned his post as bishop due to poor health and due to infighting amongst the other bishops of the area. He then returned home, where he resumed the care of the See of Nazianzus. In 383, he retired to a plot of land, all that remained to him after he had given away his wealth. He spent the remainder of his days in writing and prayer. St Gregory died in 390, and some of his relics can be found today in St Peter’s Basilica, beneath the Altar of Our Lady of Succour.

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