The Haven of the Monastery and the Harvest of Souls

Potter, Peter James, Department of History, University of Virginia
Noble, Thomas F. X., Department of History, University of Virginia
Wilken, Robert L., Department of History, University of Virginia

Monasticism and missions, at first glance, would seem to have little to do with one another. Monasticism is characterized by a life of contemplation, carried out in withdrawal from the activities of the world. Mission, on the other hand, requires that a missionary go into the world and actively bring the message of truth and salvation to those who are outside the faith. Despite the apparent differences, contemplation and action were not seen as incompatible in the early Middle Ages, and one figure in particular is especially notable for his attempt to unite the two—Gregory the Great. Gregory’s famous reluctance to leave behind the monastery for active service in the Church stands firmly beside his longing to see the Church actively preach the faith in England. This thesis examines Gregory’s own thinking about contemplation and monastic piety, on the one hand, and the wider concerns of social responsibility, on the other. In particular, it shows that, in the course of his struggle to reconcile the two within himself, Gregory fashioned an image of the ideal saint who successfully accomplished what he himself could only struggle to do.

MA (Master of Arts)
Monasticism, Gregory the Great
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