Hildebrand was born in Tuscany, Italy, and went to France where he embraced the monastic state in the renowned Abbey of Cluny. He was called back to Rome and soon gained a great reputation for learning and sanctity. He helped to carry out the reforms of Leo IX and succeeded him in 1073, taking the name of Gregory VII. Continuing the reforms of St. Leo, he worked especially to eradicate simony and the looseness of morals of the clergy, and to free the Church from the influence of temporal rules.
Henry IV, the German Emperor, whom the pope had excommunicated for flagrantly denying the Church’s authority to invest Bishops, came to him at Canossa and stood barefoot in the snow to beg for a pardon, which the Pope granted. However, this famous act of repentance was a sham; when Henry seized Rome in 1084, he set up an antipope and forced Gregory into exile at Salerno, where the Saint died the following year—steadfast to the end. His last recorded words were: “I have loved justice and hated iniquity …; therefore, I die in exile.” He was canonized in 1606 by Pope Paul V.
PRAYER: Grant to Your Church, O Lord, the spirit of fortitude and zeal for the justice with which You were pleased to let pope St. Gregory shine forth. Renouncing iniquity, may she carry our with a willing love whatever things are right.