Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Gregory, Bishop of Tours

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Gregory of Tours, date and artist unknown; Church of Saint Sebastian, Soultzmatt, France; phogoraphed on 14 March 2009 by Bernard Chenal; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Gregory, bishop of Tours, was born in France, in the Province of Auvergne, of wealthy and pious parents, named Florentius and Armentaria. He was early given in charge to Saint Gallus, bishop of Auvergne, and, afterwards to Saint Avitus, who succeeded to the vacant See. The books written by him, which are still extant, show the high degree of learning he attained under such eminent masters. Not less was his progress in virtue, to which end he was very careful to associate only with such as were renowned for their piety and holiness. Twice he recovered from severe sickness by miracle. The first time, having a dangerous fever, he desired, when all remedies had proved ineffectual, to be taken to the tomb of Saint Allyrius,and when he had there said a short prayer, blood began to stream from his nostrils, and he arose entirely restored. In his second illness, he was already so weak, that his physicians despaired of his life. He alone was full of hope, and desired to be taken to the tomb of Saint Martin, whom he had chosen as his special patron. At first, his request was refused, through fear that he would expire on the road; but as he insisted, it was at last complied with. No sooner had he been carried to the shrine of his patron, than his health was restored, and his strength returned in such a remarkable manner, that he was able to return home on foot. This miracle incited him to serve God more zealously, to honor his holy patron more than ever, especially by imitating his holy life.

He had great faith in holy relics, which he always carried with him, and by the use of which he worked many miracles. One day, he was travelling on horseback, when suddenly there arose so terrific a storm, accompanied by thunder and lightning, that his companions became greatly alarmed. He, however, taking his relics in his hand, held them towards the lowering clouds, which parted, and formed, as it were, two great mountains on either side of the road on which the Saint and his party were travelling. Gregory felt some pride in his heart, when the danger was over, that he had thus commanded the storm to cease; but he was punished by the Lord on the spot; for, his horse stumbled, and threw him with such force out of the saddle, that he was for some time unable to move. He failed not to perceive that this was a punishment of his pride, prayed humbly to be pardoned, and promised, in future, to give the honor to God, when by the devout use of the holy relics, any miracles would be wrought. The Almighty, who leaves not even the smallest fault of His faithful servants unpunished, was reconciled, and did not take from the Saint the power of working miracles. These miracles and the many virtues which the Saint possessed, made him so beloved and honored, as well by the clergy as the laity, that, on the death of the bishop of Tours, he was unanimously elected to that See. Having by some means heard of his election before it was publicly announced, he fled, and concealed himself; but he was soon discovered, and not allowed to make any objections. Hard as it had seemed to him to accept the government of the See, he was untiring, zealous and blameless in the discharge of its duties. He used all the strength of his mind to promote the honor of the Almighty, and to animate his flock to be solicitous for the salvation of their souls. His frequent sermons, his kind exhortations, and, above all, his virtuous life, had in a very short time accomplished the work of many years. Much study and writing, as well as his continual austerities and incessant labors for the welfare of those under his care, brought on the Saint several maladies, all which he bore with admirable patience, but of some of which he was cured by invoking the intercession of his patron, Saint Martin. The following incident shows again how the smallest faults of the servants of God do not go unpunished. It was Christmas night, and the holy bishop’s duty was to be in Church; but as he had watched during the whole of the preceding night, he was so overcome with sleep, that he lay down for a short rest to his weary body. But hardly had he closed his eyes, when a man of commanding appearance stood before him, and in an earnest tone of voice said: “Rise instantly, and go into the church!” The frightened Saint awoke, and thinking it a dream, crossed himself, and was soon once more lost in sleep. The same commanding figure appeared a second time, and repeated the words still more emphatically; but the Saint was so fast asleep that he awoke not. When the stranger returned the third time, he struck the bishop sharply, saying: “Thou, who should awaken others, sleep you thyself?” This took from Gregory all desire for sleep; he rose without delay, went to the church, begged God to forgive him, and atoned for his negligence.

In the sixteenth year of his Episcopate, he went to Rome, not only to visit the holy shrines, but also to confer with Gregory the Great, who had just been raised to the Papal chair. The holy Pope had heard much of the virtues, learning and many noble qualities of our Saint. The two Saints differed widely from one another in their external appearance. The Pope was tall and majestic, while the bishop was of low stature, and of very insignificant appearance. When the Pope saw him, he marvelled in his own mind that so great a soul could dwell in so small a body, and that so ill-shaped a form could be filled with such precious gifts. Our holy bishop knew, by Divine inspiration, the thoughts of the Pope, and said to him: “Holy Father! the Lord has made us, and not we ourselves. Little men, as well as tall ones, may receive noble gifts from the Almighty.” This made the Pope conceive a still higher esteem for him; so that he granted him and the Church of Tours many favors and privileges, and at last dismissed him with honor and veneration.

The holy bishop returned from Rome to Tours, and continued his labors for the salvation of souls until the year 595, when he ended his most holy life, after an episcopate of twenty-three years. On his death-bed, out of deep humility, he desired his body to be buried where everybody might walk over it. The clergy, however, who duly esteemed the holiness of their bishop, did not carry out this wish, but erected a magnificent tomb, to the left of that which contained the body of Saint Martin. Here the remains of the holy bishop were deposited, and his memory became famous on account of the many miracles that were wrought there.

Practical Considerations

Saint Gregory was punished because he was not in Church at the time of devotion; although the omission was no great sin, and was based on a good reason. What do those lazy Christians say to this who show themselves in Church only when they are obliged to do so under pain of committing sin? They do not assist at Mass during the week, nor at Vespers on Sundays, because they are too lazy. They say: “I am not compelled to do it. God has not commanded it. To assist at holy Mass on Sundays and holy days is commanded, therefore it is my duty, but further I am not obliged to go to Church.” Is that the way to act towards the Great God? That we do our duty and omit nothing which binds under penalty of sin, is but right. But to do nothing more, in honor of God and for the salvation of our soul, is wrong and dangerous. What would become of us, if God acted towards us in a similar manner? Is the Almighty obliged to to give us His daily aid? Is it His duty to protect us, soul and body against the many dangers that are constantly menacing us? Is He bound to restore us to health when we are sick, to provide us with temporal comforts, to give us long life, nay, even to protect us one week, or even one single day? And if He were to give us nothing but what He is obliged to give, how would it be with us? Consider this well! We all desire that God should be generous to us; hence we must all endeavor to be, if we may say so, generous to Him, and not only do what we are obliged to do, but more, much more. Hence, for example, besides many other things, we should not only hear Mass on Sundays and holy-days, but also assist at vespers, and visit the Church during the week. “The more generous we are to God,” says Saint Ignatius, “the more generous shall we find Him towards us.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Gregory, Bishop of Tours”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 26 May 2018. Web. 20 November 2018. <>