We truly never know what God has in store for those who love him. We often wonder what God has in mind for us. We sometimes even wonder why we live and others die. What is it that God wants from us?
If we are true to God then all will become plain. Alexander survived several persecutions by Roman Emperors to become the bishop/patriarch of Alexandria. So what? Alexandria was always a cosmopolitan place of learning and many ideas sprung up there. At the time he was appointed, Arius the priest was in line for the position. Alexander's appointment prevented that, which caused Arius to throw off any pretense about his positions. So in that role, he was able to excommunicate Arius and defend the Faith against heresy.
It is accepted that Alexander also wrote up the acts for the first Council of Nicaea, certainly something he was in a position to know of first-hand.
Alexander also able to appoint the great Athanasius to be his successor, thus safeguarding the Faith.
We may never fully understand all that God has in store for us, but holding to the Truth will guide us through everything to where He wants us to be, and with that foundation we will be the person we were meant to be and carry out God's will correctly.
He died on April 17th but he is celebrated today in the new calendar.
Concerning [Christ] we thus believe, even as the Apostolic Church believes. In one Father unbegotten, who has from no one the cause of His being, who is unchangeable and immutable, who is always the same, and admits of no increase or diminution; who gave to us the Law, the prophets, and the Gospels; who is Lord of the patriarchs and apostles, and all the saints. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; not begotten of things which are not, but of Him who is the Father;.... And besides the pious opinion concerning the Father and the Son, we confess to one Holy Spirit, as the divine Scriptures teach us; who hath inaugurated both the holy men of the Old Testament, and the divine teachers of that which is called the New. And besides, also, one only catholic and Apostolic Church, which can never be destroyed, though all the world should seek to make war with it; but it is victorious over every most impious revolt of the heretics who rise up against it. For her [head] has confirmed our minds by saying, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." After this we know of the resurrection of the dead, the first-fruits of which was our Lord Jesus Christ, who in very deed, and not in appearance merely, carried a body, of Mary Mother of God, who in the end of the world came to the human race to put away sin, was crucified and died, and yet did He not thus perceive any detriment to His divinity, being raised from the dead, taken up into heaven, seated at the right hand of majesty.
These things in part have I written in this epistle, thinking it burdensome to write out each accurately, even as I said before, because they escape not your religious diligence. Thus do we teach, thus do we preach. These are the apostolic doctrines of the Church, for which also we die, esteeming those but little who would compel us to forswear them, even if they would force us by tortures, and not casting away our hope in them.
-- 'Epistle' to Alexander, Bishop of the City of Constantinople (12, 13)
Gregory was a real Renaissance man born about 600 years before the Renaissance. From a holy family he became a monk early and spent most of his life teaching theology in that monastery (a monastery which, incidentally, lasted until the Armenian Genocide of the 20th century). A prolific theologian and writer, he is well recognized in the East, especially the Armenian Apostolic Church. In the West he has an "equipollent canonization" (basically recognizing his canonization by the East in the West without all the rigamarole) and proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church on 12 April 2015 by Pope Francis, making him one of the newest Doctors in the Church.
The thing is, the Armenian Apostolic Church rejected the doctrines of the Council of Chalcedon. So how is that a Church that rejected Chalcedon ("confess Chalcedon or take a beatin'!") can produce a Doctor of the Universal Church?
The Council of Florence in 1439 contains a bull of reunion with these Armenians, and Pope Benedict XIV in the 1700's saw those bulls as having merit and effect, regardless of the ups and downs in the relationship. John Paul II produced a common declaration (recognizing their liturgy and liturgical calendar among other doctrinal issues and things) with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the 1990's and in fact uses Gregory as an example in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater, and allowed a reference to him in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§2678).
That "they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you" Christ prays. Let us pray it with him!
Extra shout out to Baldomerus of Saint Justus, a blacksmith recognized for his selfless love and holiness, who became a monk late in life at the Monastery of St. Justus.
Now what prayers in this book may be pleasing to you,
what acceptable smoke of incense shall I offer to you,
O Christ, praised heavenly King,
if I do not pray to you to bless those whom I cursed,
tend to those I have bruised,
care for those I have alienated,
give refuge to those I have betrayed,
And heal the souls of those I have wounded in body?
-- From his Book of Lamentation
The difference between saint popes and run of the mill everyday saints may be the larger influence they seem to have. Hilary picked up from where his predecessor left off, confirming the work of several earlier general councils. He continued to rebuild and remodeled many churches desperately in need. He continued to fight Nestorianism and Arianism. But he also accomplished much in his own right, exhorting the faithful and their leaders, and convening several Councils in Rome. We as an institutional Church, benefit millennia later, both from the work he did and the work he continued.
But if that were all, then many of the everyday saints would outshine these popes.
Certainly he did these many historic things. He erected churches, convents, libraries, public baths, and the records of his Roman synod of 465 are the earliest we possess. He continued Leo‘s policy of strengthening ecclesiastical government in the empire. In that he helped define the Church‘s role visa-vi the empire therefore establishing the understanding that the pope, and not the civil leaders (the emperor, at the time), was the leader in spiritual and moral matters.
But it is not all historical. Flowing from those actions he also defended the rights of his bishops to be pastors while at the same time exhorting them to avoid clericalism and be more holy men. He called them to curb the excesses of the time, remember the purpose of their position, and devote themselves more completely to God. He called them to be true shepherds separate from the power of the world. And in a move that may sound familiar, he also completely revamped the ~400 year old Liturgy as a means to modernize church rituals, which were considered too obscure for the new generation of converts and returning schismatics.
And he did all these things in a relatively short reign and this does not even touch his service to Leo before his election.
So he did a great many things we still feel today, but that is not what makes him a saint, but the things he did that increased his holiness and the holiness of others. Those are the things we celebrate today and ask for his intervention in the institution he helped to further and protect.
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
-- Matthew 23:1-12