How can I maintain a spiritual life while dealing with people's incessant problems and needs? The question didn't originate with a pastor whose cell phone kept interrupting his prayer life. It goes back at least as far as Gregory, the first practicing monk to be elected, over his own objections, to the papacy. Gregory (540-604) preferred the life of solitude and contemplation, but it was his abilities as a leader as well as his writings on the integration of the inner life with active ministry that that caused him to be called, "Gregory the Great." When he became pope in 590, Rome had been attacked for several years by the Lombards, a fierce Germanic tribe that had crossed the Alps to plunder the Eternal City. The emperor, distant in Constantinople, was distracted by a war with Persia, and could not offer aid to Rome. The years of war, famine, and plague had prompted Rome's senatorial class to flee the city, when meant that the newly-elected Pope Gregory I was the only civil authority ...

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