Compendium of Church History - Notre Dame

Sixth Century
The Century of Saints Benedict and Gregory

St. Benedict.
St. Benedict, by his monastic rule as well as by his founding of the Benedictine Order, worked undying good for the civilization of Europe and for the development of the Church. With Pope St. Gregory I, he shares the glory of the sixth century.

St. Benedict was born in the year 480. He attended the public schools of Rome, and in early life retired into the solitude of Subiaco, where he lived the life of a hermit. Here he gathered about him a multitude of disciples. Later he went to Monte Casino, where he founded the mother-house of his order, and compiled that renowned rule of monastic life remarkable for its simplicity and its suitableness to the requirements of the Western Church. It is based on the two great principles of prayer and labor.

Bands of fervent religious were sent out from these Benedictine monasteries who, settling among distant people, began the work of conversion and civilization. It was Benedictine monks who cleared the primeval forests of Europe, dug canals, laid out roads, built bridges, and transformed barren solitudes into blooming gardens. Their monasteries were the beginnings of flourishing settlements, and the nucleus of prosperous cities.

The power for good of the Benedictine Order may be inferred from the fact that at the time of its greatest development it numbered thirty-seven thousand monasteries and colleges; that it has given to the Church thousands of canonized saints and martyrs; that innumerable bishops have been trained in its cloisters; and that it has given twenty-eight popes to the Christian world.

St. Gregory the Great
(see Fathers of the Church). The first monk to be raised to the Chair of St. Peter was Pope Gregory the Great. He was successively a monk, a cardinal, an ambassador, an abbot, and a pope. During his pontificate no kind of need escaped his vigilant care. After fourteen years as pope he died, A.D. 604. He is truly Gregory the Great, not only because of the difficulties he overcame, the lands he conquered for the Church, the power he won for the Holy See, but "for the renown of his virtue, the candor of his innocence, the humble tenderness of his heart."

Fruits of Pope Gregory's Zeal.
Pope St. Gregory labored long and earnestly at the conversion of the pagan nations of Europe, sending missionaries, encouraging the clergy, writing letters and exhortations to bishops and sovereigns. He had the happiness of seeing the Lombards of Northern Italy, the Spaniards, the Portuguese, and the English enter the true fold.

The Three Chapters

The Three Chapters were the works of three bishops in favor of Nestorianism. The Council of Chalcedon which had condemned the Eutychians had not mentioned the Three Chapters. The Eutychians, who were anxious to discredit the Council of Chalcedon, tried to form a party against it, contending that if the Council had erred in leaving these writings uncondemned, it plight also have made a mistake in condemning Eutychiani3m.

At last the Fifth General Council at Constantinople was called. The Three Chapters were examined and condemned, but without any prejudice to the Council of Chalcedon. On the contrary, Pope Vigilius, in confirming the first four general councils, gave special authority to the decrees, published by the Fathers at Chalcedon. This put an end to the contest.