Pope Saint Gregory the First, also known as The Great, was born into a wealthy political family around 540 in Rome. During his youth, Rome suffered a great disease, and father who was a powerful Senator moved his family to their estate in Sicily. But St. Gregory always had a fierce devotion to the poor and vulnerable and upon his father’s death, he gave everything away to those in need. Even to the point of turning his family’s estate in Sicily into a monastery.
St. Gregory was named Pope in 590 at the height of the bubonic plague and is most known for establishing Gregorian chant also known as plainchant, which is the oldest known style of liturgical chant in the Western Church. He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, and teachers.
However, I bring up Pope Saint Gregory the Great because on this day, February 16th in the year 600, he did something very meaningful to our ministry today. On this day in history, Pope Gregory recommended that the blessing of God is offered to anyone who sneezes in order to protect them falling ill. He thus decreed that “God Bless You” is the correct response to a sneeze.
I bring this up because I wanted to reflect on how many times we simply go through the motions, even in times of calling upon God to bless someone after a sneeze.
This is certainly a struggle for me, I will sit in Mass and get sidetracked by the many things on my to-do list and will do mindless catholic aerobics “sitting, standing, kneeling, and standing again.”
It is in these distractions that we need to recognize as Eleanor Roosevelt wrote “Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” Each moment, each encounter is a divine gift from God which we are called to live to its fullest. We do that by being intentional with our actions in the present. And by being aware of God’s presence in each moment, especially when we are sick and sneezing.
Jeff Keane, 2/5/2018 2-2, Retrieved from: http://familycircus.com/comics/february-2-2013/#respond