Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Holy Mass Online - Readings and Video : Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - #Eucharist in Your Virtual Church

 Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest
Lectionary: 349
Reading I
Sir 36:1, 4-5a, 10-17
Come to our aid, O God of the universe,
    look upon us, show us the light of your mercies,
    and put all the nations in dread of you!
Thus they will know, as we know,
    that there is no God but you, O Lord.
Give new signs and work new wonders.
Gather all the tribes of Jacob,
    that they may inherit the land as of old,
Show mercy to the people called by your name;
    Israel, whom you named your firstborn.
Take pity on your holy city,
    Jerusalem, your dwelling place.
Fill Zion with your majesty,
    your temple with your glory.
Give evidence of your deeds of old;
    fulfill the prophecies spoken in your name,
Reward those who have hoped in you,
    and let your prophets be proved true.
Hear the prayer of your servants,
    for you are ever gracious to your people;
    and lead us in the way of justice.
Thus it will be known to the very ends of the earth
    that you are the eternal God.
Responsorial Psalm
79:8, 9, 11 and 13
R.    (Sirach 36:1b)  Show us, O Lord, the light of your kindness.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
    may your compassion quickly come to us,
    for we are brought very low.
R.    Show us, O Lord, the light of your kindness.
Help us, O God our savior,
    because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
    for your name’s sake.
R.    Show us, O Lord, the light of your kindness.
Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;
    with your great power free those doomed to death.
Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
    will give thanks to you forever;
    through all generations we will declare your praise.
R.    Show us, O Lord, the light of your kindness.
Mk 10:45
R.    Alleluia, alleluia.
The Son of Man came to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
R.    Alleluia, alleluia.
Mk 10:32-45
The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem,
and Jesus went ahead of them.
They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.
Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them
what was going to happen to him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man
will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, 
and they will condemn him to death
and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him,
spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death,
but after three days he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
came to Jesus and said to him,
‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him,
“Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, ‘We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Prayer to Make a Spiritual Communion-

People who cannot communicate now make spiritual communion
At your feet, O my Jesus I bow down and offer you the repentance of my contrite heart, which abysses itself into its nothingness and Your holy presence. I adore you in the Sacrament of Your love, the ineffable Eucharist. I wish to receive you in the poor home that my heart offers you. In anticipation of the happiness of sacramental communion, I want to possess you in spirit. Come to me, oh my Jesus, that I may come to you. May Your love inflame my whole being, for life and death. I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you. So be it. Amen

Saint May 26 : St. Philip Neri a Missionary and Founder of the Oratory who Encouraged People to Raise their Minds and Hearts to God

Feast Day:
May 26
22 July 1515 at Florence, Italy
27 May 1595
12 March 1622 by Pope Gregory XV
Prayer to Saint Philip Neri O glorious St. Philip, who was so favored by God with the gift of consoling and assisting thy spiritual children at the hour of death, be also my advocate and father when I shall find myself at that dreadful moment. Obtain for me that at that hour the devil may not conquer me, nor temptation overcome me, nor fear itself revile me; but that, strengthened by a lively faith, a fervent hope and, a sincere charity, I may sustain with patience and perseverance that supreme struggle, and that, full of confidence in the mercy of the Lord, and in the infinite merits of Jesus Christ and the protection of the Most Blessed Mary, I may deserve to die the death of the just, and be united with thee and all the saints in the blessed home of Paradise, to praise and enjoy the Lord forever. Amen. (May be said as a Novena for 9 days)
Saint Philip Neri was born in Florence in 1515.  From a very early age, he was attracted to virtue, and was awakened to the love of God through the Dominicans at San Marco, where the memory of Savonarola was still very much alive and the frescoes by the Blessed Fra Angelico still had their vibrant colours. In his late teens, he was sent by his family to live with an uncle in San Germano near the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, with the understanding that he would become heir to his uncle’s business and great wealth.  But, through prayer, Philip soon discovered that earthly riches could never satisfy his heart. So he renounced the inheritance and left San Germano for Rome, where he arrived probably in 1533, at the age of eighteen.

     Once in Rome, Philip lived as a layman for nearly twenty years. He was given room and board in a family home in exchange for tutoring the children. This gave him much free time to learn about God and to speak familiarly about Him to people of all walks of life.  For a time, Philip attended lectures in theology given by the Augustinians; but his deepest lessons about God came through prayer. It was while he was praying in the catacombs of St Sebastian on the feast of Pentecost in 1544, that the Holy Spirit descended into him as a ball of fire and lodged in his heart. From this time onwards, Philip always felt his heart to be dilated and filled with a great heat. (After his death, an autopsy revealed that his heart had in fact been enlarged and that two of his ribs were broken to make room for it.)

     While still a layman, Philip encouraged the people of Rome to raise their minds and hearts to God. He was instrumental in popularizing the Forty Hours’ Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.  And he effectively organized works of charity such as the care of the sick, and lodging and feeding pilgrims who came to Rome. Because of his humility, Philip did not aspire to the priesthood, but in obedience he submitted to his confessor’s wishes and was ordained in 1551.

     As a priest, Philip was able to win more souls for God through the confessional.  He was also able to preach with more authority.  Soon, the informal discourses on the Word of God, which took place in his room, developed into daily sermons in a small chapel which he had built for the purpose. This chapel, called an Oratory, would eventually lend its name to the community of priests who, under Philip, devoted themselves to this apostolate. By the time that this initiative received its first papal recognition in 1575, there were close to forty priests taking part in the afternoon exercises, which featured four talks, interspersed with music.

     One of the remarkable things about Philip’s apostolate was the wide spectrum of people it attracted.  Cardinals and other prelates, priests and religious, nobles and servants, musicians and artists, tradesmen, shopkeepers, soldiers, and people on the edge of respectable society – and sometimes beyond it – could all be found at the Oratory and among Philip’s penitents. Philip’s joyful character was irresistible and his talents for devising paths to holiness were legendary. To keep people away from the sinful excesses of various carnivals, he began a pilgrimage to seven of Rome’s most renowned churches.  He took large numbers of people to the outskirts of Rome to enjoy a picnic in which religious truths were as much a part of the fare as good food and entertainment and Christian charity. And he counselled his penitents to put their faith into practice by visiting the sick in hospitals and helping the poor to find means to better their lot.

     Saint Philip knew that humility was the indispensable requirement for sanctity.   He counselled the mortification of the intellect rather than prolonged fasts and the wearing of hair shirts.  Think little of being thought little of – despise being despised – was one of his oft-repeated sayings, as was the advice to love to be unknown – amare nesciri.

     But Philip’s humility and total dedication of himself to God could not  remain hidden for long. Stories abound of the Saint’s wisdom, insight, and holiness (and miraculous interventions) as he brought people from all walks of life closer to God. The second reading for the Mass in his honour shows the breadth of his imagination in his work for the Gospel:  ‘Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’  (Phil. 4:8).

     Philip died on 26 May 1595, on the day after the feast of Corpus Christi, just two months shy of his eightieth birthday.  During his lifetime, Philip had counted many canonized Saints among his friends – Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Felix of Cantalice, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Camillus of Lellis, Saint John Leonard, to name just a few. So it is appropriate that he was canonized in 1622 on the same day as four other Saints – Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Saint Isidore the Farmer.

SOURCE Oratory of Toronto

Pope Francis meets Homeless and Refugees who were Invited for a Film Screening and Food at the Vatican

Pope Francis met with homeless and refugees after a film screening of the film-documentary "Francesco." There were 100 people who watched the film. Pope Francis met briefly on Tuesday, May 25 in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall, according to the director of the Vatican Press Office, Matteo Bruni. The screening was organized by the director of the film, Evgeny Afineevsky and the Laudato si' Foundation. "Pope Francis," Bruni said, "went to the Atrium of the Paul VI Hall and spoke with about 100 homeless and refugees, who were invited to watch the film while they were given a food package, offered by the organizers. The Holy Father then returned to the Casa Santa Marta." (Image Screenshot Vatican Media)

Pope Francis says "From the hands of God we have received a garden, we cannot leave a desert for our children." at Laudato Si Launch - FULL TEXT




Dear brothers and sisters,

with the Encyclical Laudato si ' , promulgated in 2015, I called on all people of good will to take care of the Earth, which is our common home. For some time now, this house that hosts us has suffered from wounds that we cause due to a predatory attitude, which makes us feel masters of the planet and its resources and authorizes us to irresponsibly use the goods that God has given us.  Today, these wounds manifest themselves dramatically in an unprecedented ecological crisis, affecting the soil, air, water and, in general, the ecosystem in which human beings live. The current pandemic, then, has brought to light even more strongly the cry of nature and that of the poor who suffer the most from it, highlighting that everything is interconnected and interdependent and that our health is not separated from the health of the environment in which we live.

We therefore need a new ecological approach, which transforms our way of living in the world, our lifestyles, our relationship with the Earth's resources and, in general, the way we look at man and live. the life. An integral human ecology, which involves not only environmental issues but man as a whole, becomes capable of listening to the cry of the poor and of being a leaven for a new society.

We have a great responsibility, especially towards future generations. What world do we want to leave for our children and our young people? Our selfishness, our indifference and our irresponsible styles are threatening the future of our kids! So I renew my appeal: let's take care of our mother Earth, let's overcome the temptation of selfishness that makes us predators of resources, let's cultivate respect for the gifts of the Earth and creation, let's inaugurate a lifestyle and a society that is finally eco-sustainable: we the opportunity to prepare a better tomorrow for all. From the hands of God we have received a garden, we cannot leave a desert for our children.

In this context, on 24 May 2020 I announced the Laudato Si ' year , whose organization was entrusted to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development . I thank all those who celebrated this year with many initiatives. Today I am pleased to announce that the Laudato year will lead to a concrete action project, the Laudato si 'Action Platform , a seven-year journey that will involve our communities in different ways, so that they become totally sustainable, in the spirit of integral ecology.

I would therefore like to invite everyone to tackle this journey together, in particular I address these seven realities: families - parishes and dioceses - schools and universities - hospitals - businesses and farms - organizations, groups and movements - religious institutes. Working together. Only in this way will we be able to create the future we want: a more inclusive, fraternal, peaceful and sustainable world.

On a journey that will last for seven years, we will let ourselves be guided by the seven objectives of Laudato si ' , which will show us the direction as we pursue the vision of integral ecology: the response to the cry of the Earth, the response to the cry of the poor, the ecological economics, the adoption of a simple lifestyle, ecological education, ecological spirituality and community commitment.

There is hope. We can all collaborate, each with their own culture and experience, each with their own initiatives and abilities, so that our mother Earth returns to its original beauty and creation returns to shine according to God's plan.

God bless each of you and bless our mission to rebuild our common home. Thank you!

FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va

Pope Francis sends Condolences after 14 People Killed in a Cable-Car and Prayers for 5-Year Old Survivor

In Italy a cable-car crashed, leaving 14 people dead. The crash of the cable-car occurred in the northern Italian region of Piedmont. Pope Francis sent his condolences and prayers for the lone survivor, a 5-year-old child. A telegram of condolence was sent to the Bishop Franco Giulio Brambilla of Novara, following this accident which led to the death of 14 people. The message was signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. In the telegram, the Pope expressed his “great sorrow” over the crash of the Stresa-Mottarone cable-car, which occurred on Sunday, May 23, 2021. 
 He sent his “closeness and heartfelt condolence” to the relatives of the victims. “With compassion for so many lives tragically cut short while immersed in the wonders of Creation,” the Pope offered “assurance of his prayer for the deceased and those who mourn them.” Praying for lone survivor Pope Francis also said he is praying for “little Eitan, whose delicate situation he follows with concern.” 
 Eitan Biran, a 5-year-old Israeli citizen living in Italy, was the sole survivor of the crash, and has been hospitalized in Turin with several broken bones. The Pope expressed his spiritual solidarity with the Diocese of Novara, and “embraces the beloved Italian people, saddened by this grave tragedy.” Investigation launched Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the incident. The cable car was bringing sightseers to the Mottarone peak overlooking Lake Maggiore when the lead cable snapped. 
Edited from Vatican News

Saint May 25: St. Bede a Doctor of the Church and Patron of Lectors , Writers and Historians who Died 735

672 at Wearmouth, England
25 May 735
1899 by Pope Leo XIII
Major Shrine:
Durham Cathedral
Patron of:
lectors ;english writers and historians; Jarrow
Historian and Doctor of the Church, born 672 or 673; died 735. In the last chapter of his great work on the "Ecclesiastical History of the English People" Bede has told us something of his own life, and it is, practically speaking, all that we know. His words, written in 731, when death was not far off, not only show a simplicity and piety characteristic of the man, but they throw a light on the composition of the work through which he is best remembered by the world at large. He writes:

Thus much concerning the ecclesiastical history of Britain, and especially of the race of the English, I, Baeda, a servant of Christ and a priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, which is at Wearmouth and at Jarrow (in Northumberland), have with the Lord's help composed so far as I could gather it either from ancient documents or from the traditions of the elders, or from my own knowledge. I was born in the territory of the said monastery, and at the age of seven I was, by the care of my relations, given to the most reverend Abbot Benedict [St. Benedict Biscop], and afterwards to Ceolfrid, to be educated. From that time I have spent the whole of my life within that monastery, devoting all my pains to the study of the Scriptures, and amid the observance of monastic discipline and the daily charge of singing in the Church, it has been ever my delight to learn or teach or write. In my nineteenth year I was admitted to the diaconate, in my thirtieth to the priesthood, both by the hands of the most reverend Bishop John [St. John of Beverley], and at the bidding of Abbot Ceolfrid. From the time of my admission to the priesthood to my present fifty-ninth year, I have endeavored for my own use and that of my brethren, to make brief notes upon the holy Scripture, either out of the works of the venerable Fathers or in conformity with their meaning and interpretation.

After this Bede inserts a list or Indiculus, of his previous writings and finally concludes his great work with the following words:

And I pray thee, loving Jesus, that as Thou hast graciously given me to drink in with delight the words of Thy knowledge, so Thou wouldst mercifully grant me to attain one day to Thee, the fountain of all wisdom and to appear forever before Thy face.
 It is plain from Bede's letter to Bishop Egbert that the historian occasionally visited his friends for a few days, away from his own monastery of Jarrow, but with such rare exceptions his life seems to have been one peaceful round of study and prayer passed in the midst of his own community. How much he was beloved by them is made manifest by the touching account of the saint's last sickness and death left us by Cuthbert, one of his disciples. Their studious pursuits were not given up on account of his illness and they read aloud by his bedside, but constantly the reading was interrupted by their tears. "I can with truth declare", writes Cuthbert of his beloved master, "that I never saw with my eyes or heard with my ears anyone return thanks so unceasingly to the living God." Even on the day of his death (the vigil of the Ascension, 735) the saint was still busy dictating a translation of the Gospel of St. John. In the evening the boy Wilbert, who was writing it, said to him: "There is still one sentence, dear master, which is not written down." And when this had been supplied, and the boy had told him it was finished, "Thou hast spoken truth", Bede answered, "it is finished. Take my head in thy hands for it much delights me to sit opposite any holy place where I used to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father." And thus upon the floor of his cell singing, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost" and the rest, he peacefully breathed his last breath.

The title Venerabilis seems to have been associated with the name of Bede within two generations after his death. There is of course no early authority for the legend repeated by Fuller of the "dunce-monk" who in composing an epitaph on Bede was at a loss to complete the line: Hac sunt in fossa Bedae . . . . ossa and who next morning found that the angels had filled the gap with the word venerabilis. The title is used by Alcuin, Amalarius and seemingly Paul the Deacon, and the important Council of Aachen in 835 describes him as venerabilis et modernis temporibus doctor admirabilis Beda. This decree was specially referred to in the petition which Cardinal Wiseman and the English bishops addressed to the Holy See in 1859 praying that Bede might be declared a Doctor of the Church. The question had already been debated even before the time of Benedict XIV, but it was only on 13 November, 1899, that Leo XIII decreed that the feast of Venerable Bede with the title of Doctor Ecclesiae should be celebrated throughout the Church each year on 27 May. A local cultus of St. Bede had been maintained at York and in the North of England throughout the Middle Ages, but his feast was not so generally observed in the South, where the Sarum Rite was followed.

Bede's influence both upon English and foreign scholarship was very great, and it would probably have been greater still but for the devastation inflicted upon the Northern monasteries by the inroads of the Danes less than a century after his death. In numberless ways, but especially in his moderation, gentleness, and breadth of view, Bede stands out from his contemporaries. In point of scholarship he was undoubtedly the most learned man of his time. A very remarkable trait, noticed by Plummer (I, p. xxiii), is his sense of literary property, an extraordinary thing in that age. He himself scrupulously noted in his writings the passages he had borrowed from others and he even begs the copyists of his works to preserve the references, a recommendation to which they, alas, have paid but little attention. High, however, as was the general level of Bede's culture, he repeatedly makes it clear that all his studies were subordinated to the interpretation of Scripture. In his "De Schematibus" he says in so many words: "Holy Scripture is above all other books not only by its authority because it is Divine, or by its utility because it leads to eternal life, but also by its antiquity and its literary form" (positione dicendi). It is perhaps the highest tribute to Bede's genius that with so uncompromising and evidently sincere a conviction of the inferiority of human learning, he should have acquired so much real culture. Though Latin was to him a still living tongue, and though he does not seem to have consciously looked back to the Augustan Age of Roman Literature as preserving purer models of literary style than the time of Fortunatus or St. Augustine, still whether through native genius or through contact with the classics, he is remarkable for the relative purity of his language, as also for his lucidity and sobriety, more especially in matters of historical criticism. In all these respects he presents a marked  contrast to St. Aldhelm who approaches more nearly to the Celtic type.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia)

Saint May 25 : St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi : Discalced #Carmelite and a Healer


April 2, 1566, Florence, Italy
May 25, 1607, Florence, Italy
April 28, 1669, Rome by Pope Clement X
Patron of:
Naples (co-patron)
Carmelite Virgin, born 2 April, 1566; died 25 May, 1607. Of outward events there were very few in the saint's life. She came of two noble families, her father being Camillo Geri de' Pazzi and her mother a Buondelmonti. She was baptized, and named Caterina, in the great baptistery. Her childhood much resembled that of some other women saints who have become great mystics, in an early love of prayer and penance, great charity to the poor, an apostolic spirit of teaching religious truths, and a charm and sweetness of nature that made her a general favourite. But above all other spiritual characteristics was Caterina's intense attraction towards the Blessed Sacrament, her longing to receive It, and her delight in touching and being near those who were speaking of It, or who had just been to Communion. She made her own First Communion at the age of ten, and shortly afterwards vowed her virginity to God. At fourteen she was sent to school at the convent of Cavalaresse, where she lived in so mortified and fervent a manner as to make the sisters prophesy that she would become a great saint; and, on leaving it, she told her parents of her resolve to enter the religious state. They were truly spiritual people; and, after a little difficulty in persuading them to relinquish their only daughter, she finally entered in December, 1582, the Carmelite convent of Santa Maria degl' Angeli, founded by four Florentine ladies in 1450 and renowned for its strict observance. Her chief reason for choosing this convent was the rule there followed of daily Communion.

Caterina was clothed in 1583, when she took the name of Maria Maddalena; and on 29 May, 1584, being then so ill that they feared she would not recover, she was professed. After her profession, she was subject to an extraordinary daily ecstasy for forty consecutive days, at the end of which time she appeared at the point of death. She recovered, however, miraculously; and henceforth, in spite of constant bad health, was able to fill with energy the various offices to which she was appointed. She became, in turn, mistress ofexterns--i.e. of girls coming to the convent on trial--teacher and mistress of the juniors, novice mistress (which post she held for six years), and finally, in 1604, superior. For five years (1585-90) God allowed her to be tried by terrible inward desolation and temptations, and by external diabolic attacks; but the courageous severity and deep humility of the means that she took for overcoming these only served to make her virtues shine more brilliantly in the eyes of her community.

From the time of her clothing with the religious habit till her death the saint's life was one series of raptures and ecstasies, of which only the most notable characteristics can be named in a short notice.

* First, these raptures sometimes seized upon her whole being with such force as to compel her to rapid motion (e.g. towards some sacred object).

* Secondly, she was frequently able, whilst in ecstasy, to carry on work belonging to her office--e.g., embroidery, painting, etc.--with perfect composure and efficiency.

* Thirdly--and this is the point of chief importance--it was whilst in her states of rapture that St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi gave utterance to those wonderful maxims of Divine Love, and those counsels of perfection for souls, especially in the religious state, which a modern editor of a selection of them declares to be "more frequently quoted by spiritual writers than those even of St. Teresa". These utterances have been preserved to us by the saint's companions, who (unknown to her) took them down from her lips as she poured them forth. She spoke sometimes as of herself, and sometimes as themouthpiece of one or other of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity. These maxims of the saint are sometimes described as her "Works", although she wrote down none of them herself.

This ecstatic life in no wise interfered with the saint's usefulness in her community. She was noted for her strong common-sense, as well as for the high standard and strictness of her government, and was most dearly loved to the end of her life by all for the spirit of intense charity that accompanied her somewhat severe code of discipline. As novice-mistress she was renowned for a miraculous gift of reading her subjects' hearts--which gift, indeed, was not entirely confined to her community. Many miracles, both of this and of other kinds, she performed for the benefit either of her own convent or of outsiders. She often saw things far off, and is said once to have supernaturally beheld St. Catherine de' Ricci in her convent at Prato, reading a letter that she had sent her and writing the answer; but the two saints never met in a natural manner. To St. Mary Magdalen's numerous penances, and to the ardent love of suffering that made her genuinely wish to live long in order to suffer with Christ, we can here merely refer; but it must not be forgotten that she was one of the strongest upholders of the value of suffering for the love of God and the salvation of our fellow-creatures, that ever lived. Her death was fully in accordance with her life in this respect, for she died after an illness of nearly threeyears' duration and of indescribable painfulness, borne with heroic joy to the end. Innumerable miracles followed the saint's death, and the process for her beatification was begun in 1610 under Paul V, and finished under Urban VIII in 1626. She was not, however, canonized till sixty-two years after her death, when Clement IX raised her to the altars in 28 April, 1669. Her feast is kept on 27 May.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia)

Saint May 25 : St. Pope Gregory VII - formerly Hildebrand who Purified the Church by a Reformation of the Clergy

Pope St. Gregory VII


One of the greatest of the Roman pontiffs and one of the most remarkable men of all times; born between the years 1020 and 1025, at Soana, or Ravacum, in Tuscany; died 25 May, 1085, at Salerno.

The early years of his life are involved in considerable obscurity. His name, Hildebrand (Hellebrand)--signifying to those of his contemporaries that loved him "a bright flame", to those that hated him "a brand of hell"--would indicate some Lombard connection of his family, though at a later time, it probably also suggested the fabled descent from the noble family of the Aldobrandini. That he was of humble origin--vir de plebe, as he is styled in the letter of a contemporary abbot--can scarcely be doubted. His father Bonizo is said by some chroniclers to have been a carpenter, by others a peasant, the evidence in either case being very slender; the name of his mother is unrecorded. At a tender age he came to Rome to be educated in the monastery of Santa Maria on the Aventine Hill, over which his maternal uncle Laurentius presided as abbot. The austere spirit of Cluny pervaded this Roman cloister, and it is not unlikely that here the youthful Hildebrand first imbibed those lofty principles of Church reform of which he was afterwards to become the most fearless exponent. Early in life he made his religious profession as a Benedictine monk at Rome (not in Cluny); the house of his profession, however, and the year of his entrance into the order, both remain undetermined. As a cleric in minor orders he entered the service of John Gratian, Archpriest of San Giovanni by the Latin Gate, and on Gratian's elevation to the papacy as Gregory VI, became his chaplain. In 1046 he followed his papal patron across the Alps into exile, remaining with Gregory at Cologne until the death of the deposed pontiff in 1047, when he withdrew to Cluny. Here he resided for more than a year.
 At Besançon, in January, 1049, he met Bruno, Bishop of Toul, the pontiff-elect recently chosen at Worms under the title of Leo IX, and returned with him to Rome, though not before Bruno, who had been nominated merely by the emperor, had expressed the intention of submitting to the formal choice of the Roman clergy and people. Created a cardinal-subdeacon, shortly after Leo's accession, and appointed administrator of the Patrimony of St. Peter's, Hildebrand at once gave evidence of that extraordinary faculty for administration which later characterized his government of the Church Universal. Under his energetic and capable direction the property of the Church, which latterly had been diverted into the hands of the Roman nobility and the Normans, was largely recovered, and the revenues of the Holy See, whose treasury had been depleted, speedily augmented. By Leo IX he was also appointed propositus or promisor (not abbot) of the monastery of St. Paul extra Muros. The unchecked violence of the lawless bands of the Champagne had brought great destitution upon this venerable establishment. Monastic discipline was so impaired that the monks were attended in their refectory by women; and the sacred edifices were so neglected that the sheep and cattle freely roamed in and out through the broken doors. By rigorous reforms and a wise administration Hildebrand succeeded in restoring the ancient rule of the abbey with the austere observance of earlier times; and he continued throughout life to manifest the deepest attachment for the famous house which his energy had reclaimed from ruin and decay. In 1054 he was sent to France as papal legate to examine the cause of Berengarius. While still in Tours he learned of the death of Leo IX, and on hastening back to Rome he found that the clergy and people were eager to elect him, the most trusted friend and counsellor of Leo, as the successor. This proposal of the Romans was, however, resisted by Hildebrand, who set out for Germany at the head of an embassy to implore a nomination from the emperor. The negotiations, which lasted about eleven months, ultimately resulted in the selection of Hildebrand's candidate, Gebhard, Bishop of Eichstadt, who was consecrated at Rome, 13 April, 1055, under the name of Victor II. During the reign of this pontiff, the cardinal-subdeacon steadily maintained, and even increased the ascendancy which by his commanding genius he had acquired during the pontificate of Leo IX. Near the close of the year 1057 he went once more to Germany to reconcile the Empress-regent Agnes and her court to the (merely) canonical election of Pope Stephen X (1057-1058). His mission was not yet accomplished when Stephen died at Florence, and although the dying pope had forbidden the people to appoint a successor before Hildebrand returned, the Tusculan faction seized the opportunity to set up a member of the Crescentian family, John Mincius, Bishop of Velletri, under the title of Benedict X. With masterly skill Hildebrand succeeded in defeating the schemes of the hostile party, and secured the election of Gerard, Bishop of Florence, a Burgundian by birth, who assumed the name of Nicholas II (1059-1061).

The two most important transactions of this pontificate--the celebrated decree of election, by which the power of choosing the pope was vested in the college of cardinals, and the alliance with the Normans, secured by the Treaty of Meifi, 1059--were in large measure the achievement of Hildebrand, whose power and influence had now become supreme in Rome. It was perhaps inevitable that the issues raised by the new decree of election should not be decided without a conflict, and with the passing away of Nicholas II in 1061, that conflict came. But when it was ended, after a schism enduring for some years, the imperial party with its antipope Cadalous had been discomfited, and Anselm of Baggio, the candidate of Hildebrand and the reform party, successfully enthroned in the Lateran Palace as Alexander II. By Nicholas II, in 1059, Hildebrand had been raised to the dignity and office of Archdeacon of the Holy Roman Church, and Alexander II now made him Chancellor of the Apostolic See. On 21 April, 1073, Alexander II died. The time at length had come when Hildebrand, who for more than twenty years had been the most prominent figure in the Church, who had been chiefly instrumental in the selection of her rulers, who had inspired and given purpose to her policy, and who had been steadily developing and realizing, by successive acts, her sovereignty and purity, should assume in his own person the majesty and responsibility of that exalted power which his genius had so long directed.

On the day following the death of Alexander II, as the obsequies of the deceased pontiff were being performed in the Lateran basilica, there arose, of a sudden, a loud outcry from the whole multitude of clergy and people: "Let Hildebrand be pope!" "Blessed Peter has chosen Hildebrand the Archdeacon!" All remonstrances on the part of the archdeacon were vain, his protestations fruitless. Later, on the same day, Hildebrand was conducted to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, and there elected in legal form by the assembled cardinals, with the due consent of the Roman clergy and amid the repeated acclamations of the people. That this extraordinary outburst on the part of the clergy and people in favour of Hildebrand could have been the result of some preconcerted arrangements, as is sometimes alleged, does not appear likely. Hildebrand was clearly the man of the hour, his austere virtue commanded respect, his genius admiration; and the prompitude and unanimity with which he was chosen would indicate, rather, a general recognition of his fitness for the high office. In the decree of election those who had chosen him as pontiff proclaimed him "a devout man, a man mighty in human and divine knowledge, a distinguished lover of equity and justice, a man firm in adversity and temperate in prosperity, a man, according to the saying of the Apostle, of good behaviour, blameless, modest, sober, chaste, given to hospitality, and one that ruleth well his own house; a man from his childhood generously brought up in the bosom of this Mother Church, and for the merit of his life already raised to the archidiaconal dignity". "We choose then", they said to the people, "our Archdeacon Hildebrand to be pope and successor to the Apostle, and to bear henceforward and forever the name of Gregory" (22 April, 1073), Mansi, "Conciliorum Collectio", XX, 60.

The decree of Nicholas II having expressly, if vaguely acknowledged the right of the emperor to have some voice in papal elections, Hildebrand deferred the ceremony of his consecration until he had received the royal sanction. In sending the formal announcement of his elevation to Henry IV of Germany, he took occasion to indicate frankly the attitude, which, as sovereign pontiff, he was prepared to assume in dealing with the Christian princes, and, with a note of grave personal warning besought the king not to bestow his approval. The German bishops, apprehensive of the severity with which such a man as Hildebrand would carry out the decrees of reform, endeavoured to prevent the king from assenting to the election; but upon the favourable report of Count Eberhard of Nettenburg, who had been dispatched to Rome to assert the rights of the crown, Henry gave his approval (it proved to be the last instance in history of a papal election being ratified by an emperor), and the new pope, in the meanwhile ordained to the priesthood, was solemnly consecrated on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 29 June, 1073. In assuming the name of Gregory VII, Hildebrand not only honoured the memory and character of his earliest patron, Gregory VI, but also proclaimed to the world the legitimacy of that pontiff's title.

From the letters which Gregory addressed to his friends shortly after his election, imploring their intercession with heaven in his behalf, and begging their sympathy and support, it is abundantly evident that he assumed the burden of the pontificate, which had been thrust on him, only with the strongest reluctance, and not without a great struggle of mind. To Desiderius, Abbot of Monte Cassino, he speaks of his elevation in terms of terror, giving utterance to the words of the Psalmist: "I am come into deep waters, so that the floods run over me"; "Fearlessness and trembling are come upon me, and darkness hath covered me." And in view of the appalling nature of the task that lay before him (of its difficulties no one indeed had a clearer perception than he), it cannot appear strange that even his intrepid spirit was for the moment overwhelmed. For at the time of Gregory's elevation to the papacy the Christian world was in a deplorable condition. During the desolating era of transition--that terrible period of warfare and rapine, violence, and corruption in high places, which followed immediately upon the dissolution of the Carlovingian Empire, a period when society in Europe and all existing institutions seemed doomed to utter destruction and ruin--the Church had not been able to escape from the general debasement. The tenth century, the saddest, perhaps, in Christian annals, is characterized by the vivid remark of Baronius that Christ was as if asleep in the vessel of the Church. At the time of Leo IX's election in 1049, according to the testimony of St. Bruno, Bishop of Sengi, the whole world lay in wickedness, holiness had disappeared, justice had perished and truth had been buried; Simon Magus lording it over the Church, whose bishops and priests were given to luxury and fornication" (Vita S. Leonis PP. IX in Watterich, Pont. Roman, Vitae, I, 96). St. Peter Damian, the fiercest censor of his age, unrolls a frightful picture of the decay of clerical morality in the lurid pages of his "Liber Gomorrhianus" (Book of Gomorrha). Though allowance must no doubt be made for the writer's exaggerated and rhetorical style--a style common to all moral censors-- yet the evidence derived from other sources justifies us in believing that the corruption was widespread. In writing to his venerated friend, Abbot Hugh of Cluny (Jan., 1075), Gregory himself laments the unhappy state of the Church in the following terms: "The Eastern Church has fallen away from the Faith and is now assailed on every side by infidels. Wherever I turn my eyes--to the west, to the north, or to the south--I find everywhere bishops who have obtained their office in an irregular way, whose lives and conversation are strangely at variance with their sacred calling; who go through their duties not for the love of Christ but from motives of worldly gain. There are no longer princes who set God's honour before their own selfish ends, or who allow justice to stand in the way of their ambition. . . .And those among whom I live--Romans, Lombards, and Normans--are, as I have often told them, worse than Jews or Pagans" (Greg. VII, Registr., 1.II, ep. xlix).

But whatever the personal feelings and anxieties of Gregory may have been in taking up the burden of the papacy at a time when scandals and abuses were everywhere pressing into view, the fearless pontiff felt not a moment's hesitation as to the performance of his duty in carrying out the work of reform already begun by his predecessors. Once securely established on the Apostolic throne, Gregory made every effort to stamp out of the Church the two consuming evils of the age, simony and clerical incontinency, and, with characteristic energy and vigor, laboured unceasingly for the assertion of those lofty principles with which he firmly believed the welfare of Christ's Church and the regeneration of society itself to be inseparably bound up. His first care, naturally, was to secure his own position in Rome. For this purpose he made a journey into Southern Italy, a few months after his election, and concluded treaties with Landolfo of Benevento, Richard of Capun, and Gisolfo of Salerno, by which these princes engaged themselves to defend the person of the pope and the property of the Holy See, and never to invest anyone with a church benefice without the papal sanction. The Norman leader, Robert Guiscard, however, maintained a suspicious attitude towards the pope, and at the Lenten Synod (1075) Gregory solemnly excommunicated him for his sacrilegious invasion of the territory of the Holy See (Capun and Benevento). During the year 1074 the pope's mind was also greatly occupied by the project of an expedition to the East for the deliverance of the Oriental Christians from the oppression of the Seljuk Turks. To promote the cause of a crusade, and to effect, if possible, a reunion between the Eastern and the Western Church--hopes of which had been held out by the Emperor Michael VIII in his letter to Gregory in 1073--the pontiff sent the Patriarch of Venice to Constantinople as his envoy. He wrote to the Christian princes, urging them to rally the hosts of Western Christendom for the defense of the Christian East; and in March, 1074, addressed a circular letter to all the faithful, exhorting them to come to the rescue of their Eastern brethren. But the project met with much indifference and even opposition; and as Gregory himself soon became involved in complications elsewhere, which demanded all his energies, he was prevented from giving effect to his intentions, and the expedition came to naught. With the youthful monarch of Germany Gregory's relations in the beginning of his pontificate were of a pacific nature. Henry, who was at the time hard pressed by the Saxons, had written to the pope (Sept., 1073) in a tone of humble deference, acknowledging his past misconduct, and expressing regret for his numerous misdeeds--his invasion of the property of the Church, his simoniacal promotions of unworthy persons, his negligence in punishing offenders; he promised amendment for the future, professed submission to the Roman See in language more gentle and lowly than had ever been used by any of his predecessors to the pontiffs of Rome, and expressed the hope that the royal power and the sacerdotal, bound together by the necessity of mutual assistance, might henceforth remain indissolubly united. But the passionate and headstrong king did not long abide by these sentiments.

With admirable discernment, Gregory began his great work of purifying the Church by a reformation of the clergy. At his first Lenten Synod (March, 1074) he enacted the following decrees:

That clerics who had obtained any grade or office of sacred orders by payment should cease to minister in the Church.
That no one who had purchased any church should retain it, and that no one for the future should be permitted to buy or sell ecclesiastical rights.
That all who were guilty of incontinence should cease to exercise their sacred ministry.
That the people should reject the ministrations of clerics who failed to obey these injunctions.
Similar decrees had indeed been passed by previous popes and councils. Clement II, Leo IX, Nicholas II, and Alexander II had renewed the ancient laws of discipline, and made determined efforts to have them enforced. But they met with vigorous resistance, and were but partially successful. The promulgation of Gregory's measures now, however, called forth a most violent storm of opposition throughout Italy, Germany, and France. And the reason for this opposition on the part of the vast throng of immoral and simoniacal clerics is not far to seek. Much of the reform thus far accomplished had been brought about mainly through the efforts of Gregory; all countries had felt the force of his will, the power of his dominant personality. His character, therefore, was a sufficient guarantee that his legislation would not be suffered to remain a dead letter. In Germany, particularly, the enactments of Gregory aroused a feeling of intense indignation. The whole body of the married clergy offered the most resolute resistance, and declared that the canon enjoining celibacy was wholly unwarranted in Scripture. In support of their position they appealed to the words of the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:2 and 7:9: "It is better to marry than to be burnt"; and 1 Timothy 3:2: "It behooveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife." They cited the words of Christ, Matthew 19:11: "All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given"; and, recurred to the address of the Egyptian Bishop Paphnutius at the Council of Nice. At Nuremberg they informed the papal legate that they would rather renounce their priesthood than their wives, and that he for whom men were not good enough might go seek angels to preside over the Churches. Siegfried, Archbishop of Mainz and Primate of Germany, when forced to promulgate the decrees, attempted to temporize, and allowed his clergy six months of delay for consideration. The order, of course, remained ineffectual after the lapse of that period, and at a synod held at Erfurt in October, 1074, he could accomplish nothing. Altmann, the energetic Bishop of Passau, nearly lost his life in publishing the measures, but adhered firmly to the instructions of the pontiff. The greater number of bishops received their instructions with manifest indifference, and some openly defied the pope. Otto of Constance, who had before tolerated the marriage of his clergy, now formally sanctioned it. In France the excitement was scarcely less vehement than in Germany. A council at Paris, in 1074, condemned the Roman decrees, as implying that the validity of the sacraments depended on the sanctity of the minister, and declared them intolerable and irrational. John, Archbishop of Rouen, while endeavouring to enforce the canon of celibacy at a provincial synod, was stoned and had to flee for his life. Walter, Abbot of Pontoise, who attempted to defend the papal enactments, was imprisoned and threatened with death. At the Council of Burgos, in Spain, the papal legate was insulted and his dignity outraged. But the zeal of Gregory knew no abatement. He followed up his decrees by sending legates into all quarters, fully empowered to depose immoral and simoniacal ecclesiastics.
It was clear that the causes of the simony and of the incontinence amongst the clergy were closely allied, and that the spread of the latter could be effectually checked only by the eradication of the former. Henry IV had failed to translate into action the promises made in his penitent letter to the new pontiff. On the subjugation of the Saxons and Thuringians, he deposed the Saxon bishops, and replaced them by his own creatures. In 1075 a synod held at Rome excommunicated "any person, even if he were emperor or king, who should confer an investiture in connection with any ecclesiastical office", and Gregory recognizing the futility of milder measures, deposed the simoniacal prelates appointed by Henry, anathematized several of the imperial counsellors, and cited the emperor himself to appear at Rome in 1076 to answer for his conduct before a council. To this Henry retorted by convening a meeting of his supporters at Worms on 23 January 1076. This diet naturally defended Henry against all the papal charges, accused the pontiff of most heinous crimes, and declared him deposed. Theses decisions were approved a few weeks later by two synods of Lombard bishops at Piacenza and Pavia respectively, and a messenger, bearing a most offensive personal letter from Henry, was dispatched with this reply to the pope. Gregory hesitated no longer: recognizing that the Christian Faith must be preserved and the flood of immorality stemmed at all costs, and seeing that the conflict was forced upon him by the emperor's schism and the violation of his solemn promises, he excommunicated Henry and all his ecclesiastical supporters, and released his subjects from their oath of allegiance in accordance with the usual political procedures of the age.

Henry's position was now precarious. At first he was encouraged by his creatures to resist, but his friends, including his abettors among the episcopate, began to abandon him, and the Saxons revolted once more, demanding a new king. At a meeting of the German lords, spiritual and temporal, held at Tibur in October, 1076, the election of a new emperor was canvassed. On learning through the papal legate of Gregory's desire that the crown should be reserved for Henry if possible, the assembly contented itself with calling upon the emperor to abstain for the time being from all administration of public affairs and avoid the company of those who had been excommunicated, but declared his crown forfeited if he were not reconciled with the pope within a year. It was further agreed to invite Gregory to a council at Augsburg in the following February, at which Henry was summoned to present himself. Abandoned by his own partisans and fearing for his throne, Henry fled secretly with his wife and child and a single servant to Gregory to tender his submission. He crossed the Alps in the depth of one of the severest winters on record. On reaching Italy, the Italians flocked around him promising aid and assistance in his quarrel with the pope, but Henry spurned their offers. Gregory was already on his way to Augsburg, and, fearing treachery, retired to the castle of Canossa. Thither Henry followed him, but the pontiff, mindful of his former faithlessness, treated him with extreme severity. Stripped of his royal robes, and clad as a penitent, Henry had to come barefooted mid ice and snow, and crave for admission to the presence of the pope. All day he remained at the door of the citadel, fasting and exposed to the inclemency of the wintry weather, but was refused admission. A second and a third day he thus humiliated and disciplined himself, and finally on 28 January, 1077, he was received by the pontiff and absolved from censure, but only on condition that he would appear at the proposed council and submit himself to its decision.

Henry then returned to Germany, but his severe lesson failed to effect any radical improvement in his conduct. Disgusted by his inconsistencies and dishonesty, the German princes on 15 March, 1077, elected Rudolph of Swabia to succeed him. Gregory wished to remain neutral, and even strove to effect a compromise between the opposing parties. Both, however, were dissatisfied, and prevented the proposed council from being held. Henry's conduct toward the pope was meanwhile characterized by the greatest duplicity, and, when he went so far as to threaten to set up an antipope, Gregory renewed in 1080 the sentence of excommunication against him. At Brixen in June, 1080, the king and his feudatory bishops, supported by the Lombards, carried their threat into effect, and selected Gilbert, the excommunicated simoniacal Archbishop of Ravenna, as pope under the title of Clement III. Rudolph of Swabia having fallen mortally wounded at the battle of Mersburg in 1080. Henry could concentrate all his forces against Gregory. In 1081 he marched on Rome, but failed to force his way into the city, which he finally accomplished only in 1084. Gregory thereupon retired into the exile of Sant' Angelo, and refused to entertain Henry's overtures, although the latter promised to hand over Guibert as a prisoner, if the sovereign pontiff would only consent to crown him emperor. Gregory, however, insisted as a necessary preliminary that Henry should appear before a council and do penance. The emperor, while pretending to submit to these terms, tried hard to prevent the meeting of the bishops. A small number however assembled, and, in accordance with their wishes, Gregory again excommunicated Henry. The latter on receipt of this news again entered Rome on 21 March, 1084. Guibert was consecrated pope, and then crowned Henry emperor. However, Robert Guiscard, Duke of Normandy, with whom Gregory had formed an alliance, was already marching on the city, and Henry, learning of his advance, fled towards Citta Castellana. The pontiff was liberated, but, the people becoming incensed by the excesses of his Norman allies, he was compelled to leave Rome. Disappointed and sorrowing he withdrew to Monte Cassino, and later to the castle of Salerno by the sea, where he died in the following year. Three days before his death he withdrew all the censures of excommunication that he had pronounced, except those against the two chief offenders--Henry and Guibert. His last words were: "I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile." His body was interred in the church of Saint Matthew at Salerno. He was beatified by Gregory XIII in 1584, and canonized in 1728 by Benedict XIII. His writings treat mainly of the principles and practice of Church government. They may be found under the title "Gregorii VII registri sive epistolarum libri" in Mansi, "Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio" (Florence, 1759) and "S. Gregorii VII epistolae et diplomata" by Horoy (Paris, 1877).
Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia