Born to a wealthy and distinguished pagan family. Trained in law and rhetoric in his youth. Brother-in-law to the Roman governor of Palestine. His father died when Theodore was age 14.
The boy had originally planned to study at the law school in Beirut, but when he arrived at Caesarea with his brother-in-law’s entourage, he encountered Origen, head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt. He and his brother Athenodorus each gave up the idea of law school, became students of Origen, and converted to Christianity; Theodore changed his name to Gregory. Studied philosophy and theology for seven years under Origen. Returned to Pontus c.238.
Bishop of Caesarea, a diocese with only 17 Christians when he arrived. Gregory converted most of his bishopric; tradition says there were only 17 pagans left at the time of his death. Instituted the celebration of martyrs, teachings about the saints, and celebration of saint feast days as a way to interest pagans in the Church. During the Decian persecutions c.250, he and his flock fled into the desert. Worked among the sick when the plague struck soon after, and with refugees during the invasion of Pontus by the Goths in 252. Attended the First Council of Antioch in 264 and 265. Opposed the heresies of Sabellianism and Tritheism. Used his legal training to help his parishioners, and settle disputes between them without taking their problems to the civil courts controlled by pagans. Oversaw the council that chose Saint Alexander the Charcoal Burner as the first bishop of Comana. Saint Macrina the Elder heard Gregory preach many times in her youth, and passed his wisdom onto her grandsons Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Noted theological writer.
As you might expect from some one surnamed the Wonder Worker, there were many miraculous events in Gregory’s life.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes that the Wonder-Worker was the first person known to receive a vision of the Theotokus. The Virgin and Saint John the Baptist appeared to him in a vision, and gave him what became a statement of doctrine on the Trinity.
Gregory had the power of healing by laying on of his hands. Often the healing was so powerful that the patient was cured of his illness, and became a fervent convert on the spot.
During the construction of a church for his growing flock, the builders ran into a problem with a huge buried boulder. Gregory ordered the rock to move out of the way of his church; it did.
In order to stop the River Lycus from its frequent and damaging floods, Gregory planted his staff at a safe point near the river bank. He then prayed that the river would never rise past the staff. The staff took root, grew into a large tree, and the river never flooded past it again. This act led to his patronage against floods and flooding.
Two local pagans, hearing that Gregory was a soft touch for money, decided to con the bishop. One lay beside the road where Gregory was travelling, and pretended to be dead. The other stopped the bishop, pleaded poverty, and asked for money to bury his dead friend. Gregory had no money with him, so he took off his cloak and threw it over the “dead” man, telling the “live” one to sell the cloak and use the funds. When Gregory had moved on, the “live” con-man found that his friend had died.
Two brothers in Gregory’s diocese had inherited a piece of land that contained a lake. Unable to decide how to divide the lake, the two settled on armed combat to settle the matter. On the night before the battle, Gregory prayed for a peaceful solution to the matter. The next morning the brothers found that the lake had dried up leaving easily dividable farm land.
During Gregory’s time in the desert during the Decian persecutions, an informer told the authorities where to find the bishop. Guards went to the site, but found nothing but two trees standing in isolation in the desert. The informer went back to the place and found that what the soldiers had seen as trees were actually Gregory and a deacon in prayer. This convinced the informer of the reality of Gregory’s God, and he converted.
When returning from the wilderness, Gregory had to seek shelter from a sudden and violent storm. The only structure nearby was a pagan temple. Gregory made the sign of the cross to purify the place, then spent the night there in prayer, waiting out the storm. The next morning, the pagan priest arrived to receive his morning oracles. The demons who had been masquerading as pagan gods advised him that they could not stay in the purified temple or near the holy man. The priest threatened to summon the anti-Christian authorities to arrest Gregory. The bishop wrote out a note reading “Gregory to Satan: Enter”. With this “permission slip” in hand, the pagan priest was able to summon his demons again.
The same pagan priest, realizing that his gods unquestioningly obeyed Gregory’s single God, found the bishop and asked how it was done. Gregory taught the priest the truth of Christianity. Lacking faith, the priest asked for a sign of God’s power. Gregory ordered a large rock to move from one place to another; it did. The priest immediately abandoned his old life, and eventually became a deacon under bishop Gregory. This ordering about of boulders led to Gregory’s patronage against earthquakes.