In the Eye of the Storm

A Biography of Gregory the Great

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Rome in the year 590 a.d. A plague is tearing through the city. Pope Pelagius II is dead. Outside the walls, Lombard soldiers are raising their swords. What can save the Eternal City? All eyes, and all hopes, are on the next Pope.

Veteran writer Sigrid Grabner tells the dramatic story of Pope Gregory I — a poor monk known now to history as St. Gregory the Great. Born to a noble family and trained in Roman law, Gregory had been prefect of the city of Rome as a young man, but gave up his power to walk in the footsteps of Saint Benedict. Everything changed in a flash when, in 590, he was raised, against his will, to the highest office of Christendom and found himself, as he wrote to one friend, "in the eye of a storm", at the helm of an "old and rotten ship", with the waves groaning around him. He thought he was not up to the job. But he was wrong.

Gregory's political savvy, spiritual energy, generosity, and gift for peacemaking not only steered Rome clear of a shipwreck, but laid the foundations for the future of Europe. In fourteen years as pope, he instituted sweeping financial reforms, ensured legal protection for the poor, developed a system of musical notation, wrote influential works of theology, quieted the Byzantines and the warring Lombards, and led a citywide pilgrimage to the church of Saint Mary Major that, tradition says, brought an end to the plague.

Grabner's vivid narrative of the life of Gregory the Great reads more like a novel, evoking the landscape of early medieval Italy with humanity and realism. It brings us face to face with a man who, for all his weakness, became an instrument in the hand of God and let himself be made great.

Sigrid Grabner

Sigrid Grabner is a writer and columnist based in Potsdam, Germany.  Formerly a professor at Humboldt University, where she received a Ph.D. in art history, she has published more than ten books of history, biography, and historical fiction. She contributes regularly to the German-language periodical VATICAN Magazin.

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"Public perversity, political corruption, breakdown of the family, massive ignorance and illiteracy, abortion- on-demand and even infanticide, divorce and remarriage on a grand scale, lack of civic virtue, a booming pornography industry, the total collapse of a culture and a civilization. This is not a description of a modern city; it was that of Rome when a humble monk was elected her Bishop. Gregory loved Rome with every fiber of his being, and it caused him immense anguish to envision the demise of the Eternal City. By nature shy, Pope Gregory didn't know how to proceed, but the Holy Spirit gave him ample inspiration for he embarked on a plan of action to take his beloved Rome back from the brink- and with it, western civilization. So successful was he that he received a nick-name which graces his tombstone: "God's consul."

Strangely, biographies of this Pope are few and far between. The current work admirably fills the gap and offers an effective plan of action for any future Pope."

-Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., Editor, The Catholic Response

"The more one knows about the life and work of Gregory the Great, the better one understands what makes the Church catholic. Truth to tell, it is difficult to grasp fully the genius of Catholicism without some knowledge of Benedictine monasticism. Pope Gregory left the monastery and came to the Chair of Peter. He knew how to secure the Church's position in the world as well as to lead souls to heaven. This delightful book will interest both scholar, student, and general reader."

-Romanus Cessario, O.P., Adam Cardinal Maida Chair of Theology, Ave Maria University

"Faced with the onslaught of barbarians, famines, and epidemics, the man who would become St. Gregory the Great prevailed nonetheless. Quite like our own time, he had to admonish his fellow priests and bishops, some of whom had lost their way. Despite his frail condition, he never gave up.

This book is a compelling account of a humble man who never aspired to high office, yet rose to the task when summoned by the Lord to do so. It is a joy to read."

-Bill Donohue, President, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

"Is it providence that In The Eye of the Storm has been released for this time? With a deeply travailed modern Catholic Church, readers are unlikely to find a book that offers a finer blueprint for renewal - and reason for hope - than Sigrid Grabner's aptly titled biography on Gregory the Great. In the Eye of the Storm reads like a page-turning suspense novel, pulling the reluctant pope from his settled monastic life into a desperate papal mission that seemingly saved Rome and the entire world. Pope Gregory assumed the Chair of Saint Peter when Rome was being swallowed whole by marauding barbarians, famine, clergy maleficence, and plague. Grabner's research meticulously captures all of the tumult, but more importantly, she holds up the holy, prophetic, and often miraculous work of the warrior-pope who became a marvel to millions as he strove to rescue the Church. This work will certainly bring warmth to readers' souls, for it will inspire them to live more saintly, driven, and courageous lives."

-Kevin Wells

"Saint John Henry Newman wrote famously: 'to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.' In the Eye of the Storm: A Biography of Gregory the Great by Sigrid Grabner, takes the reader deep into the turbulent years of 6th century AD Rome. Grabner has done her homework well, as she describes in captivating images and stunning detail, what remains of Rome in the 6th century. The great empire has already been sacked several times by time Gregory is elected to the Chair of Peter in 590, a position he will hold until his death in 604. A skilled administrator, gifted leader, pious monk, brilliant writer and fearless defender of the imperial city, Gregory easily earned the title 'Great.' I highly encourage you to travel back in time 15 centuries and allow Sigrid Grabner to show you the unbroken links of the apostolic tradition."

-Bishop James Conley

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