The Catholic University of America

 Frederick A. Manella

Final Examination of Frederick A. Mannella

For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Monday, March 22, 2010 3:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 125


Fr. James Wiseman, S.T.D.


Per Creaturam Invisibilem: Divine Providence in the Thought of St. Gregory the Great 

The legacy of Gregory the Great has been, at best, a mixed affair.  While widely respected for his contributions to Christian morality and spirituality, or even his own practical administration as pope, his belief in such things as miracles, demonic and angelic interventions, the imminent end of the world, visions, relics, and the like has typically only garnered him criticism and confusion.  The problem with such an evaluation of Gregory’s thought is that it fails to perceive the place and role of the miraculous within the larger spectrum of his theology.  Providence, as an architectonic doctrine within Christian theology, is conceptually linked to nearly every aspect of Christian theology, thus it is uniquely suited for evaluating Gregory’s belief in the miraculous within the larger spectrum of his thought.  The purpose of this study is to examine Gregory’s belief in the miraculous within the larger context of his theology of providence.

Gregory’s theology of providence, while principally concerned with God’s operation within history, conceptually relied upon a distinct cosmology.  Within Gregory’s cosmolocial perception God governed the universe through its hierarchical structure, wherein he governed the universe from the top downward, utilizing the invisible aspects of creation to govern the visible.  As such, visible creation retained no causality independent from God or the operation of the invisible world.  Within this cosmological perspective all creation was miraculous, and invariably controlled by God, not only cosmologically, but historically as well.  Gregory believed God ordered all of history by means of invisible creation and grace, such that his predestined plan was invaraibly fulfilled through the free action, and effort, of created beings.  Within this theological system, God ordered all things and events by mediating his will and power to invisible agents, angels, demons, and human souls, who then fulfilled God’s divine plan within creation and history on his behalf. Gregory’s belief in the miraculous, therefore, was an essential expression of his theology of providence, as well as the entire system of his thought.