Including excerpts and a story inspired by Brother Benet Tvedten, a monk at Blue Cloud Valley monastery in South Dakota, in his book,                                                        “The View From the Monastery.”  

Back in the 6th century, one of the greatest Popes of all history reigned over the church in what became one of the church’s brightest eras. Pope Gregory was known as “The Great,” and was so beloved by all Christians, especially Italians, that when he died, he was immediately given the honor and title of “Saint.” 

But, going into his religious achievements is not the goal here. Instead, I will be presenting Saint Gregory as the “character” he played in many legends and fables of his day. Whenever a discussion would bend into the direction of miracles, this Pope Gregory story about Saint Benedict often came up. Here’s how it goes.

The deacon Peter, a long serving and trusted assistant to Pope Gregory the Great, asked the Pope: Were St. Benedict’s miracles “worked by prayer, or at the drop of his hat?”

Pope Gregory had just completed a biography of Benedict, the famous monk and abbot who wrote the primary book of “rules” for many monasteries, even to this very day. In that biography, Gregory, being a “big fan” of Benedict, spun many yarns about the miracles that Benedict had performed in his life. 

For instance, in Gregory’s biography, St. Benedict brought back to life one of his brother monks; also raised from the dead the child of a local farmer; cured leprosy and insanity, cast out devils, etc. … well, you get the idea. If Benedict had indeed performed all the miracles attributed to him by Gregory in his biography, then Benedict would most likely be sitting at the right hand of God this very moment. And perhaps he is.  

So, now that we know a little backstory, let’s return to the question deacon Peter asks his Pope: Were St. Benedict’s miracles “worked by prayer, of at the drop of the hat?” 

Gregory responded to deacon Peter by stating that “holy men can undoubtedly perform miracles in either of the ways you mentioned.”

Obviously, Pope Gregory was a big believer in miracles. During his reign, Italy was in a state of despair due to the constant invasions from barbarian armies. The Pope wanted to lift the hopes of the people, so he reminded them in the best ways he could, that indeed, miracles are possible, and miracles are happening every day. Gregory loved to tell his miracle stories whenever he got the chance. 

The Pope brought light to the people in some very dark times. He used their own faith to lift their spirits, by reminding them who they were and whose they were. He told them what they had forgotten; that Italy was a land of saints, and a land favored by God. 

These were deeply faithful people – think about it for a minute: these people are the 6 century spiritual descendants of Jesus Christ and his original followers. They were still mighty robust in their faith and solidly grounded in the church. They were ripe for miracle stories! They believed all of them, and were better off for their belief. 

Now, back to the story of deacon Peter and Pope Gregory. After the Pope tells his deacon that holy men could perform miracles any way they wanted, Peter had a follow-up question. 

He asked the Pope:                                                                                   “How is it that we cannot find people of this type today?”

And, as the old story goes, Pope Gregory says, “I believe there still are many such people in the world, Peter. One cannot conclude that there are no great saints just because there are no miracles. The true estimate of life, after all, lies in acts of virtue, not in the display of miracles.” The Pope concluded: “There are many, Peter, who without performing miracles, are not at all inferior to those who perform them.”

I have shared this story with you because I worry that the people of the church today are ready and willing to write off miracles. Many Christians believe that “miracles” are not an option anymore. They have faith in modern human capacities to solve all problems. They scold some of us miracle believers for not thinking rationally or worldly. Of course, I am tempted to respond with the modern cliché: “And how’s that workin’ for ya?” 

But this is very important. It’s a faith check. To me, writing off miracles is like writing off God. I define a miracle as “anything only God can do.” And, by my definition, miracles are happening all around us. Starting with you. Only God could create you, and all that you are. So, that makes you a miracle! Me too! All of us!!

Let’s get back to some basics, and let’s start with the faith and trust that God really is still happening here, and because of that, unceasing miracles are all around us. And we, as the people of God’s church, should be, and can become again, God’s miracle workers. 

That’s really what I love most about the church – when I get to be a part of a worship service or an outreach ministry or a bible study or whatever – that turns into a miracle right before my very eyes. Trust me, I’ve seen you there too! 

So, for this week, as we approach the back turn toward the end of Lent, let’s lift up our faith to the point of miracle believing, and miracle working. Then, when we get there, we will most certainly experience the miracle on Easter in a brand-new way. 

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