St. Basil: Light of the Church and Witness of God’s Love

St. Basil, defined in Byzantine liturgical texts as a "light of the Church," was the subject of the Holy Father's catechesis during today's general audience. The audience, attended by 12,000 people, was held in the Vatican Basilica then continued in the Paul VI Hall.

St. Basil, the Pope explained, was born in the 4th century. "Dissatisfied with his worldly successes and attracted by Christ, he dedicated himself to a monastic life in prayer and in the practice of charity." The Church in both East and West, he added, "looks to him admiringly for the sanctity of his life, the excellence of his doctrine and the harmonic blend of his intellectual and practical gifts."

"Through his preaching and writing," this saint, who became bishop Caesarea in 370, "undertook an intense pastoral, theological and literary activity" and "supported the foundation of many 'fraternities' or communities of Christians consecrated to God, whom he visited frequently."

St. Basil "is one of the fathers of monasticism. He created a special form of monasticism, not closed to the local church community but open to it. … His monks formed part of the particular Church, the driving nucleus that preceded the faithful in discipleship of Christ, and not only in faith and love, but also through works of charity. The monks ran schools and hospitals and served the poor, thus demonstrating the integrity of their Christian life."

"As bishop and pastor of his vast diocese, Basil was constantly concerned by the difficult conditions in which his faithful lived, firmly denouncing all evils. And he would intervene with government leaders to alleviate the sufferings of the people. He safeguarded the freedom of the Church, opposing even the powerful in order to defend the right to profess the true faith." St. Basil, who bore witness to the fact that "God is love and charity," also founded various institutions for the most needy, which became a model for modern hospitals.

While maintaining his concern with charity as a sign of faith, Basil "considered the liturgy as the focus of his life," and "was also a wise liturgical reformer. At his encouragement, the people came to know and love the Psalms. He was able to oppose heretics and dedicated his energies to healing divisions within the Church."

"Following a plan he himself had devised, he became apostle and minister of Christ, herald of the Kingdom of God, model and rule of piety, pastor of Christ's flock, pious doctor, father and nurse, God's helper and laborer, builder of the Lord's temple.

"This," the Pope concluded, "is the plan that the holy bishop passes on to us, especially to those who announce the Word. He was a man who showed us how to be truly Christian."

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