Saints of the Day – Gregory the Wonder-Worker

detail of a painting of Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus; date unknown, artist unknown; San Gregorio side altar, parish church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Concadirame, Italy; photographed on 21 June 2012 by Threecharlie; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus)

Born at Neocaesarea c.213; died there c.270. Saint Gregory was the son of pagan parents of rank, and had a good education in letters and law. About 233, he and his brother Athenodorus accompanied their sister, who was joining her husband at Caesarea in Palestine. They were supposed to continue on to Beirut to further their study of law, but instead they came under Origen’s influence, entered his catechetical school in Caesarea, studied theology, and were baptized. After studying under Origen for five years, and Gregory returned to Pontus as a missionary with an intention also to practice law.

Soon after 238 he was, in spite of his youth, elected bishop of Neocaesarea by the 17 Christians of the city. It soon became apparent that he was gifted with remarkable powers. He preached so eloquently that in the course of some 30 years he is said to have converted practically the whole population of the city. He was a much sought after arbiter for his wisdom, legal knowledge, and ability. He so ably proselytized by word and deed that it is reported that at the time of his death only 17 unbelievers were left in the city.

His apostolic work was carried on in heartbreaking conditions of war, plague, and persecution. When Decius’s persecution of the Christians broke out in 250, he advised his flock to go into hiding, and fled to the desert with his deacon. On his return, he ministered to his flock when plague struck his see, and when the Goths devastated Pontus, 252-54, which he described in his Canonical Letter. He participated in the Synod of Antioch, 264-65, against Samosata, and fought Sabellianism and Tritheism.

Not much is known about it, but he is the first missionary of whom it is related that he popularized Christian observances by adding secular attractions to religious festivals.

Saint Gregory left a number of theological and other writings and he has always been highly regarded in the Greek Church. He wrote a panegyric to Origen, a treatise on the Creed, and a dissertation addressed to Theopompus. Many of his works are available on the Internet, including:

A Declaration of Faith
A Metaphrase of the Book of Ecclesiastes
A Sectional Confession of Faith
On the Trinity
Twelve Topics on the Faith
On the Subject of the Soul
Four Homilies
On All the Saints
On Matthew 6:22-23
Canonical Epistle

The reason for his more popular fame is indicated by the epithet given to him, Thaumaturgus, ‘the Wonder-Worker.’ Extraordinary marvels are attributed to him, which were written down a century after his time by Saint Basil and Saint Gregory of Nyssa, who had learned of the wonder-worker from their grandmother Saint Macrina who had known him and had heard him preach in her youth. On the testimony of the last named, he was the first recorded person to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision; with her, we are told, appeared Saint John the Evangelist, and they communicated to Gregory a statement of doctrine on the Blessed Trinity.

Saint Gregory also records that when today’s Gregory was returning to the wilderness, he had to seek shelter in a pagan temple during a violent rain storm. Upon entering, he made the sign of the cross several times to purify the air, then spent the night there in prayer with his companion.

The next day the temple priest tried to call forth his normal oracles, but the demons declared that they could stay there no longer because Gregory had cleansed the temple. The angry priest threatened to go to the magistrates and the emperor with his complaint against Gregory. Unemotionally, Gregory told the priest that the demons would do his bidding in the name of Christ. The priest’s fury turned to admiration, when Gregory complied with his desire. As he left the place, he handed the priest a paper on which was written, “Gregory to Satan: Enter,” and the demons returned.

The priest, surprised that his gods would readily obey Gregory’s God, ran after the bishop, who explained the Christian faith to the priest. Shocked at the doctrine of the Incarnation and desiring that the truth be reinforced by a sign, the priest requested that Gregory miraculously transport a huge rock from one place to another. The stone, too, obeyed, by the power of Him who promised His disciples that by faith they could move mountains. By this miracle, the priest was converted and left behind his home, family, and friends to be instructed in the divine wisdom. The priest later become Gregory’s companion and deacon.

At other times Gregory laid hands upon the sick and they recovered their health of mind, body, and spirit, while receiving also the gift of conversion. So many were healed and converted, that Gregory was forced to build a church for their use in Neocaesarea. Saint Jerome and the Venerable Bede both record that when a rock impeded the building, Gregory commanded that it yield its place – and it did.

In order to hold back the floods of the River Lycus, which often overflowed its banks, Gregory fixed his staff near the bank and prayed the the waters might not exceed that bound; and they obeyed his voice. The staff also took root and grew into a large tree.

Two men hoped to take advantage of Gregory’s compassionate nature. One pretended to be dead, while the other besought funds with which to bury the first. Gregory, in a hurry, tossed his coat upon the impostor. When he had left, the second laughed to let the other know the coast was clear. Unfortunately, the impostor was really dead.

Another time, two brothers were fighting each other over the ownership of a lake, which was part of their inheritance. The night before the dispute was to be ended with a battle to the death between the tenants of each side, Gregory spent the night in prayer on the spot. The next day, the combatants found that the lake had become dry land and could be divided without an engagement of forces.

During the renewed persecutions of Decius in 250, Gregory withdrew into the desert with his deacon. The authorities had learned of his hiding place and sent soldiers to bring him back. They returned empty-handed, saying that they had seen nothing at the place except two trees. The informer went again to the place to verify the news and, finding in prayer the bishop and deacon whom the soldiers mistook for two trees, judged their escape to be miraculous, threw himself at Gregory’s feet, and became a Christian (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).

Saint Gregory is generally portrayed as a bishop driving devils out of the temple, though sometimes he is shown bringing the miter to Alexander Carbonarius (Roeder). Carol Gerten’s site contains an anonymous 12th-century Russian icon of Saint Gregory the Miracle-Worker

He is invoked against floods and earthquakes (at one time he reportedly stopped the flooding Lycus, and at another, he moved a mountain) (Delaney).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 August 2020. Web. 27 November 2020. <>