The name Gregory is mentioned ten times in the calendar of the Romanian Orthodox Church, four of which in November. Every time this name is linked to a saintly person who embraced the monastic life.
Etymologically, the name Gregory comes from Greek and it means ‘vigilant,’ ‘watchful,’ ‘alert.’ The name also became associated with Latin grex (stem greg–) meaning “flock” or “herd”. This association with a shepherd who diligently guides his flock contributed to the name’s popularity among monks and popes.
Here is a systematic and chronological review of “God’s friends” named Gregory:
Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, the bishop of Neocaesarea of Pontus (today Turkey), lived around AD 213-270. He is the first saint that the Church gave the title of Thaumaturgus or ‘miracle-worker.’ He was a pragmatic theologian, one of Origen’s disciples.
Two of his miracles are known in particular. (1) During the persecution of Emperor Decius, he retired to the mountains with a deacon. Finding the place where they were hiding, they began to pray with their hands raised to the sky and escaped the persecutors who saw two adjacent trees instead. (2) He stopped the flow of the river Lykos over the inhabited villages by sticking a stick on the shore from which grew a huge oak.
Feast day: November 17.
Illuminator of Greater Armenia
Saint Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia lived between 257 and 330.
Because he destroyed the altars of the pagan gods, King Tiridates III subjected him to various tortures. Later, he cured the king of a serious illness and converted him to Christianity. Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301.
Feast day: September 30.
Saint Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople (329-390), is also known as Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. He was the friend of Saint Basil the Great. He succeeded to the administration of the diocese of Nazianzus after his father who was also called Gregory. He considered himself unworthy of being ordained, therefore he avoided ordination for a long time.
A born orator, he is called “the Theologian” or “speaker of God” for the power with which he preached the true faith and fought against heresies. He is considered the greatest theologian of the Holy Trinity.
Due to misunderstandings caused by the envy of some, the Saint left the hierarchical throne and withdrew to solitude, where, until the end of his life, he composed writings and poems about Orthodox spiritual life and theology.
Feast day: January 25, 30.
4. Saint Basil’s brother
Saint Gregory the Bishop of Nyssa (Cappadocia, Asia Minor) lived between 335 and 384. He was the younger brother of Saint Basil the Great.
Bishop, orator and philosopher, St Gregory was married for a while to a deaconess. He fought against Arianism, being a fervent continuator of his brother’s reformist ideas. Because of the Arian Emperor Valens, he was deposed from the see.
Eastern monasticism owes its organization to St Basil and its spiritual orientation to St Gregory, through his writings on the deification of man and epectasy (man’s eternal movement into God’s infinite being).
Feast day: January 10.
Saint Gregory the Dialogist, commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was the bishop of Rome and lived between 540 and 604. He was first the prefect of Rome and then a bishop.
The epithet Saint Gregory the Dialogist has been attached to him because of his Dialogues, a collection of four books of miracles, signs, wonders, and healings done by the holy men, mostly monastic, of sixth-century Italy, and the life after death.
Feast day: March 12.
Bishop of Agrigentum
Saint Gregory, Bishop of Agrigentum (Sicily), lived between 559 and 630.
Since a young age, he loved to study, especially the Holy Scriptures. He lived in Carthage, Antioch, then Jerusalem and Constantinople. He became famous for his fervent fight against Monothelitism. He became a bishop in his hometown of Agrigentum.
Feast day: November 23
Saint Gregory the Decapolite (780-842) had an exemplary monastic life and remained famous for his ardency in defending the veneration of holy icons. He had the gift of foresight and a miracle worker.
The epithet Decapolite refers to his birthplace: the city of Irenopolis in the Isaurian Decapolis, in southeastern Asia Minor (today Turkey).
His holy relics, after passing through several places due to the vicissitudes of the times, were finally brought to Bistrita Monastery, Valcea County, Romania.
Feast day: November 20.
Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica (1296-1359), was one of the most deep and original theologians.
He was the son of Constantine Palamas, a courtier of Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos. He was a wise, faithful, devout man who loved prayer and led a saintly life.
Saint Gregory Palamas structured Hesychasm as a doctrine and practice of the Eastern tradition.
Feast day: November 14, Second Sunday of Great Lent
Saint Gregory of Sinai (1265-1346) was the spiritual father of St Gregory Palamas for a while. He assumed the great schema on Mt Sinai. He also lived in Cyprus, Jerusalem, Crete, and Athos.
He was a prominent Hesychast and a perfect calligrapher.
Together with Saint Gregory Palamas, he made Athos the centre of Hesychasm. Ecumenical Patriarch Callistus I was one of St Gregory’s disciples.
Feast day: April 6.
Saint Gregory the Teacher, Metropolitan of Wallachia, lived between 1765 and 1834.
He was a disciple of Saint Paisius Velichkovsky. He was a great philanthropist. He translated the Lives of the Saints from Greek. He is called “the Teacher” for his cultural and typographic work and because he was one of the most significant metropolitans of Wallachia.
Following the Russo-Turkish war, he was exiled for over four years to Chisinau, Buzau and Căldărușani.
Feast day: June 22.