The influence of Pope Saint Gregory the Great on the liturgy, organization, and dogma of the Church cannot be overstated. His Dialogues, however, are a stumbling block for his present-day admirers. A man of such profound intellect and extraordinary talents could not possibly have written, in the words of one skeptic, “a bizarre and astonishing grab bag of stories about the next world in which ghosts abound.” Even Butler’s Lives of Saints wonders how “the Dialogues could have been written by anyone so well balanced as Saint Gregory.”
This lecture argues that the Dialogues—Gregory’s deliberate and highly popular effort to create a new martyrology for a Christian Italy in which there were few martyrs, strictly speaking—are altogether worthy of their author. Further, Christians today would derive much benefit from meditating on them. As narrative alone, they are a wonderful work. As spiritual direction, they are a masterful work, stressing humility as central to holiness, and exposing the consequences of seeking human respect.