He was born of wealthy parents and received a good education. AboutA.D. 570 he became prefect of Rome, a position of significant honor. After his father died, Gregory surrendered his fortune and entered a Benedictine monastery. There he gained recognition as a gifted leader, and subsequently, when Pope Pelagius died in A.D. 590, Gregory was elected to succeed him.
In his Dialogues, Gregory records many miracles of which he had personal knowledge, including the raising of the dead. (Iv). For example, Gregory tells of Bishop Boniface whose garden suffered an invasion of caterpillars. Seeing all his vegetables going to ruin, he turned to the caterpillars and said, "I adjure you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, depart from here and stop eating these vegetables." In obedience to his voice all the caterpillars, down to the very last one, disappeared from the garden.23
Gregory also tells of a boy who, while drawing water from the river, fell in and was being swept away by the current. Benedict, the abbot (leader) of the nearby monastery, aware of the crisis through a word of knowledge, charged Brother Maurus to hurry to the river to rescue the boy. Running to the river's edge, Maurus spotted the frantic boy being swept downstream, and without realizing it, he continued to run on the water until he reached the boy. Grabbing him by the hair, he dragged him to safety on the riverbank. Benedict would take no credit for the miracle but attributed it to the obedience of his disciple. Maurus, however, claimed that the rescue was "due entirely to his abbot's command. "24
Gregory also tells of a man named Marcellus being raised from the dead. Marcellus died on Saturday, and because he could not be buried the same day, his sisters sought the prayers of Fortunatus, the bishop of that area. Fortunatus went to the home of the deceased early Sunday morning and, kneeling near the corpse, began to pray. After praying for some time, he arose and sat down. Then in a subdued voice, he called "Brother Marcellus." Marcellus opened his eyes, looked at Fortunatus and said, "What have you done? What have you done?" Fortunatus then asked, "What have I done?" Marcellus explained how, on the previous day, two people [angels] had come to escort him to the abode of the blessed. A messenger had intervened, however, commanding, "Take him back because Bishop Fortunatus is visiting his home." Marcellus revived, quickly regained his strength and lived for years after this miracle.25
23. Gregory, Dialogues, 98.
24. Ibid., 69.
25. Ibid., 48-49.