Heaven’s Bright Queen – Apparition to Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Neocaesarea, Asia Minor, 222

[Pictorial Lives of the Saints: Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus]Article

Theodorus, afterward called Gregory, and, from his extraordinary miracles, surnamed Thaumaturgus, or Worker of Wonders, was of Neocaesarea in Pontus, born of parents eminent for their rank and fortune, but engaged in the superstitions of idolatry. At fourteen years of age he lost his father, and from that time began to discover the vanity of the heathenish religion as his reason grew more quick and manly, and was improved by education; and by this means his inclinations were insensibly turned towards the belief of the Unity of the Deity, and the Christian faith. His mother pursued the plan begun by his father, in giving him a literary education, with an intention of bringing him up to the bar, and the practice of oratory. In the study of rhetoric he made such surprising progress, that it was easy to foresee he would one day be one of the greatest orators of the age. He learned the Latin tongue, which was a necessary qualification for preferment to great dignities in the Roman empire: his masters also persuaded him to study the Roman laws, an acquaintance with which they said would be a great advantage to him in whatever profession he should afterward embark. Phedimus, archbishop of Amasea, metropolitan of Pontus, cast his eye upon him to raise him to the episcopal dignity, judging that his ripe parts and piety more than made up for his want of age. The good man, hearing of this, shifted his quarters, and no sooner was he sought for in one desert but he fled to another. However, at length he compounded, that a delay should be allowed him, to prepare himself for that sacred character; after which he received the episcopal ordination with the accustomed ceremonies. About the same time he received, and committed to writing, the famous creed or rule of faith, concerning the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which is extant in his works, and of which we have in Lambecius, a most valuable ancient Latin translation, published from a copy which was sent by Charlemagne, a present to Pope Adrian I.

Saint Gregory of Nyssen, relates that his namesake, Bishop of Neocaesarea, a short time before he was called to the priest hood, received in vision a creed, which is still in extant, from Our Blessed Lady at the hands of Saint John the Evangelist.

He was deeply pondering theological doctrine, which the heretics of the day denied. “In such thoughts he was passing the night, when one appeared as if in human form, aged in appearance, saintly in the fashion of his garments, and very venerable, both in grace and countenance and general mien. Amazed at the sight, he started from his bed, and asked who it was, and why he came; but on the other calming the perturbation of his mind with his gentle voice, and saying he had appeared to him by Divine command, he took courage at the word, and regarded him with a mixture of joy and fright. Then, on his stretching his hand and pointing to something on one side, he followed with his eyes the extended hand, and saw another appearance opposite to the former, in shape of a woman, but more than human. When his eyes could not bear the apparition, he heard them conversing together on the subject of his doubts. And thus he is said to have heard the person in woman’s shape bid John the Evangelist disclose to the young man the mystery of godliness; and he answered that he was ready to comply with the wish of the Mother of the Lord, and denunciated a formulary, well-turned and complete, and so vanished. He, on the other hand, immediately committed to writing that Divine teaching, and henceforth preached in the church according to that form, and bequeathed to posterity, as an inheritance, that heavenly teaching.” – Blessed John Henry Newman

The city of Neocaesarea was rich, large and populous, but so deeply buried in vice, and so miserably addicted to superstition and idolatry, that it seemed to be the place where Satan had fixed his seat, and Christianity had as yet scarce been able to approach its neighborhood, though it was in a flourishing condition in many parts of Pontus. Saint Gregory, animated with zeal and charity, applied himself vigorously to the charge committed to him, and God was pleased to confer upon him an extraordinary power of working miracles, of some of which Saint Gregory of Nyssa gives us the following account. As the Saint was returning from the city to the wilderness, a violent rain obliged him to take shelter in a heathenish temple, the most famous in the country, upon account of oracles and divinations delivered there. At his entrance he made the sign of the cross several times to purify the air, and then spent the night there with his companion in prayer, according to custom. The next morning he pursued his journey, and the idolatrous priest performed his usual superstitions in the temple: but the devils declared they could stay there no longer, being forced away by the man who had passed the last night there. After several vain attempts to bring those powers back, the priest hastened after the Saint, threatening to carry his complaints against him to the magistrates and to the emperor. Gregory, without the least emotion, told him, that with the help of God he could drive away, or call, the devils when he pleased. When the idolater saw he disregarded all his menaces, and heard that he had a power of commanding demons at pleasure, his fury was turned into admiration, and he entreated the bishop, as a further evidence of the divine authority, to bring the demons back again to the temple. The Saint complied with his request, and dismissed him with a scrip of paper on which he had written: “Gregory to Satan: Enter.” This being laid upon the altar, and the usual oblation made, the demons gave their answers as usual. The priest, surprised at what he saw, went after the holy bishop, and begged he would give him some account of that God whom his gods so readily obeyed. Gregory explained to him the principles of the Christian faith, and finding the priest shocked at the doctrine of the incarnation, told him, that great truth was not to be enforced by words or human reasoning, but by the wonders of the divine power. The priest hereupon pointing to a great stone, desired the Saint to command that it should change its place to another, which he named. Saint Gregory did so, and the stone obeyed by the power of Him who promised his disciples, that by faith they should be able to remove mountains. The priest was converted by this miracle, and forsaking his house, friends, and relations, resigned himself up to the instructions of divine wisdom.

The people of Neocaesarea hearing of the miraculous actions of Gregory, were all ambitious to see so wonderful a man, and received him with great applause when he first arrived among them. But he passed unconcerned through the crowd, without so much as casting his eye on one side or another. His friends who had accompanied him out of the wilderness were solicitous where he should meet with entertainment. The Saint asked them if they were banished the divine protection and bade them not be solicitous concerning their bodies, but about their minds, which are of infinitely greater importance, and are to be pre pared and built up for heaven. Many were ready to open their doors to so welcome a guest: and he accepted the invitation of Musonius, a person of great honor and esteem in the city, and lodged with him. That very day he fell to preaching, and before night had converted a number sufficient to form a little church. Early the next morning the doors were crowded with sick persons, whose distempers he cured, and at the same time he wrought the conversion of their souls. The body of Chris tians soon became so numerous that the Saint was enabled to build a church for their use, to which all contributed either money or labor. Though churches were afterward demolished in the days of Dioclesian, and though an earthquake threw down most of the neighboring buildings, this escaped both dangers, and not a stone of it was shaken to the ground. Saint Jerome and Venerable Bede mention, that when Saint Gregory built this famous church near the sea, he commanded a rock, which obstructed the work, to yield place; which it did. The river Lycus, now called Casalmach, which passed by the walls of Neocaesarea, falling from the mountains of Armenia, some times by its impetuous floods swept away inhabitants, cattle, houses, and crops. Saint Gregory, moved with compassion, fixed his staff near the bank, and prayed that the waters might not exceed those bounds, and they obeyed his voice; and no such floods happened again to the time when Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote; the staff also took root, and became a large tree. Once, when the Saint was upon a journey, he was espied by two Jews, who, knowing his charitable disposition, made use of a stratagem to impose upon him. One lay on the ground feign ing himself dead and the other, lamenting his miserable fate, begged somewhat of the bishop toward his burial; who took his coat and cast it on the man that lay as dead. When Saint Gregory was got out of sight, the impostor came Back laughing, and required his companion to rise; but found him really dead. The miracles and wisdom of the Saint brought him into such reputation, that even in civil causes, wherever the case was knotty and difficult, it was usually referred to his decision. Two brothers happened to be at law about a lake, both challenging it to belong to their part of the inheritance: nor was the Saint able by words to accommodate the difference between them; but each resolved to maintain his right by force of arms, and a day was set when they were to bring into the field all the force they could raise with their tenants. To prevent unjust bloodshed Saint Gregory continued all the night before the intended engagement in prayer upon the spot, and the next day the lake was turned into solid land, whereby the contention was removed: the remains of the lake were shown long after. A little before his death, being sensible of its near approach, he enquired how many infidels yet remained in the city, and being told there were seventeen, he sighed and, lifting up his eyes to heaven, expressed his grief that any continued strangers to the true religion, but thankfully acknowledged as a great mercy that, having found but seventeen Christians at his first coming thither, he left but seventeen idolaters. Having then heartily prayed for the conversion of the infidels, and the confirmation and perfect sanctification of those that believed in the true God, he enjoined his friends not to procure him any peculiar place of burial, but that as he lived as a pilgrim in the world, claiming nothing for himself, so after death he might enjoy the portion of a stranger, and be cast into the common lot. He peaceably resigned his soul into the hands of his Redeemer, and is named in all Eastern and Western Martyrologies on the seventeenth of November.

MLA Citation

  • William J Walsh. “Apparition to Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Neocaesarea, Asia Minor, 222”. The Apparitions and Shrines of Heaven’s Bright Queen, 1905. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 July 2014. Web. 17 January 2022. <>