Pope St Gregory the Great
‘For the love of God’: it’s an utterance of exasperation at an unwelcome or intimidating task and said with sincerity characterises the proper disposition for all Christians to all their labours, both welcome and unwelcome. As far as unwelcome tasks go, being Pope when all your deepest desire – save for doing God’s will – is to be a monk living a quiet, cloistered life of prayer, has to pretty high up there, and, therefore I think ‘for the love of God’ would have been a very appropriate papal motto for Pope St Gregory the Great.
Born in 540 AD into a wealthy and powerful Roman family, Gregory received an excellent education and seemed destined for worldly greatness when he was appointed Prefect of the city in 572 AD. This administrative position would equip him with excellent skills for his subsequent life, but ultimately did not satisfy, as is evidenced by his decision to resign his position and turn his home into a monastery.
As a monk he dedicated himself to the task of recollection in God, prayer, and peaceful immersion in study, and in so doing, once more he was equipping himself for the task which God would ultimately call him to carry out. This time he found that his chosen life satisfied in every respect, yet God did not will that he remained in it. Thus it was that Pope Pelagius appointed him a deacon and sent him to Constantinople, where he acquired further skills that he would draw upon during his papacy.