St. Gregory VII
This pope's name was Hildebrand. He was born in Italy around 1023. His uncle was a monk in Rome so Hildebrand went to the monastery to be educated. Later, Hildebrand became a Benedictine monk in France. Soon, however, he was called back to Rome. There he held very important positions under several popes until he himself was made pope.
For twenty-five years, he had refused to let himself be elected. But when Pope Alexander II died, the cardinals made up their minds to elect Hildebrand pope. With one voice they cried out: "Hildebrand is the elect of St. Peter!" "They carried me to the throne," the saint wrote afterward. "My protests did no good. Fear filled my heart and darkness was all around me." Hildebrand chose the name Gregory VII.
These were truly dark times for the Catholic Church. Kings and emperors were interfering in Church matters. They named the men they wanted to be bishops, cardinals and even popes. Many of those appointed were not very good men. They were bad examples to the people.
The first thing Pope St. Gregory did was to spend several days in prayer. He also asked others to pray for him. He realized that without prayer nothing can be done well for God. Afterward, he began to act to make the clergy better. He also took steps to keep civil rulers out of the affairs of
the Church. This was very difficult because the rulers were all against the change. However, some gave in.
One ruler, Emperor Henry IV of Germany, caused Pope Gregory great sufferings. This young man was sinful and greedy for gold. He would not stop trying to run the affairs of the Church. He even sent his men to capture the pope. But the people of Rome rescued the saint from prison. Pope Gregory excommunicated the emperor. That did nothing to stop Henry IV. He chose his own pope. Of course, the man he chose was not the real pope. But Henry tried to make people think he was. Then, once again, the emperor sent his armies to capture the saint. Pope Gregory was forced to leave Rome. He was taken safely to Salerno where he died in 1085. His last words were, "I have loved justice and hated evil. That is why I am dying in exile." He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Paul V in 1606.
Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand) is known for his tremendous personal courage. He stood up for the cause of Jesus and his Church.
"Lord," said Thomas, " we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus told him: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (Jn. 14:5)