Saint Basil

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St. Basil

Saint Basil the Great (born 329, died 379) was a man of vast learning and constant activity, genuine eloquence and immense charity. St. Basil became Bishop and Archbishop of Caesarea. He fought simony, aided the victims of drought and famine, strove for a better clergy, insisted on a rigid clerical discipline, fearlessly denounced evil wherever he detected it. The father of monasticism, he became a monk and he wrote a set of rules for the monastic life that are still used today. His contributions to the Church were many. An accomplished statesmanship, a man of great personal holiness, and one of the great orators of Christianity. He is called the Greek Doctor of the Church.

Early life

St. Basil the Great was born one of nine children at Caesarea (now modern Turkey) to a strong Christian family, father Saint Basil the Elder and mother Saint Emmelia. He is the grandson of Saint Macrina the Elder and four of his brothers and sisters are also canonized saints. Basil studied in all the famous schools of the day; Caesarea, Constantinople and Athens. Saint Basil was distinguished for his brilliance of mind and seriousness of character. He was able, grave, industrious, and well advanced in rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, astronomy, geometry, and medicine. After attending school and receiving an education, he opened a school of oratory and became a lawyer. He became well known for his teaching and speaking abilities. He was so successful, so sought after as a speaker, he was tempted by pride. Fearful that it would overtake his piety, he sold all that he had, gave away the money, and became a priest and monk.[1]


Saint Basil founded a monastery in Pontus and directed it and his fellow monks for five years. He wrote a monastic rule - rules, and guidelines for the organization, prayers schedule, discipline, and administration of the monastery. After founding several other monasteries, he was ordained. In the year 370, he was made bishop of Caesaria.


After his death and in large measure due to his efforts, he was responsible for the victory of Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism in the Byzantine East, and the denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381-82. Basil worked for the exclusion of unfit candidates from the sacred ministry and the deliverance of the bishops from the temptation of simony; ecclesiastical crime of paying for holy offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church. Basil trained his clergy so strictly that they grew famous as the type of all that a priest should be. He was a cool, persistent, fearless fighter in defence both of doctrine and of principles. There was very little chance of opposing him successfully.

Interests of the poor

Basil had shown a marked interest in the poor and afflicted. He created the Basileiad institution, a house for the care of friendless strangers, the medical treatment of the sick poor, and the industrial training of the unskilled. Basil's teachings regarding the social obligations of the wealthy were so forcibly preached that modern sociologists have ventured to claim him as one of their own. [2]

Prayer for the departed

Saint Basil the Great, like all the other Church Fathers, taught the importance of praying for the faithful departed. St. Basil wrote, "I think that the noble athletes of God, who have wrestled all their lives with the invisible enemies, after they have escaped all of their persecutions and have come to the end of life, are examined by the prince of this world; and if they are found to have any wounds from their wrestling, any stains or effects of sin, they are detained. If, however they are found unwounded and without stain, they are, as unconquered, brought by Christ into their rest."[3]


Basil died 1 January, 379. His death was regarded as a public bereavement; Jews, pagans, and foreigners vied with his own flock in doing him honour. His leadership of Caesarea took shape as the sort of model of the Christian diocese. He lived up to his name, meaning kingly. St. Basil is the patron saint of Russia and the patron saint of hospital administrators. In 1568, Pope Pius V made Basil a Doctor of the Catholic Church.


  • Dogmatic; five books against Eunomius. (his work assails Arianism and defends the Divinity of the Three Persons of the Trinity). His treatise teaches the doctrine of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost (Basil had sanctioned the use of a doxology, "Glory be to the Father with the Son together with the Holy Ghost")
  • Exegetical; these include nine homilies "On the Hexaemeron" and thirteen (Maran) genuine homilies on particular Psalms.
  • Homiletical; Twenty-four sermons, doctrinal and moral.(preaching upon the responsibilities of wealth)
  • Correspondence; 366 letters also called Canonical Epistles.


  • O sinner, be not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all you necessities. Call her to your assistance, for such is the divine Will that she should help in every kind of necessity.
  • By the command of your only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of your whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of your holy name.


  1. Saint Basil the Great Star Quest Production Network
  2. St. Basil the Great Catholic Encyclopedia
  3. (Homilies on the Psalms 7:2)