About the Basilians & St. Basil
Basilians are priest educators. We began in France almost two centuries ago. We educate in schools secondary and higher. We educate in parishes and in mission areas. Basilians evangelize because this is the very ground work of Christian education. Basilian work is more than ever needed today.
Because Christianity is decomposing before our eyes. Basilian high school teachers find that they can no longer suppose that the eighth grade students that come to them are aware of even the basics of Christian religion. Prior teaching that used to be done by either teaching sisterhoods or careful parents is no longer a fact. There is need henceforth of “starting from scratch.”
Basilian educators must now speak by word or print to a world that is secular, to people who do not ever inquire about the all important issues. Basilian educators adopt the living habits of the poor for such is Christ-like imitation. Basilian educators embrace chastity in open rebuke to the collapsing morals of today’s world. Basilian educators practice virtue of obedience to rightful authority in order to resist prideful egoism.
Who was the person Basil?
Long ago and far away he was the light of the Eastern classical world. He was born in 329 and lived a brief but action-filled life that ended in 379. In this short span of fifty years he accomplished three major tasks that have benefitted solidly both Christianity and the human race.
He provided the theological refutation of the heresy of Arius, who had denied the divinity of Christ.
He made acceptable a Christian appreciation of non-Christian literary contributions by extracting truth and beauty from worthy sources.
He composed a monastic rule that has shaped the monastic life of the churches of the East from his time to the present.
Basil speaks to us today. How?
Almost fifteen centuries after his death St. Basil was known in the West at the village of St. Basile. In this area the Congregation of Priests of St. Basil the Great was founded in the beginning years of the 19th century. Not as a monastic Order of the Eastern church but in the manner of a Western community of men it would be sparked by the ideals and zeal of the great Bishop of Caesarea.
Basil was an educator, a rhetor, in the classical tradition as his father had been. He attended neither Yale nor Harvard but rather Constantinople in 346 and then Athens in the twilight of her Christian fame. Ten years later he was back in Caesarea. Visits to the monks of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine made him acquainted with systematic religious life. Following his return from this experience he undertook personally the life of a monk (358-362).
Priestly ordination followed in 364. Six years later he was elected Archbishop of Caesarea. Although it had been condemned officially in 325 at the Council of Nicea, the teaching of Arius lived on. Basil set himself to the task of ending this mistaken theology that had influenced even emperors. He was able to convince his long-time friend Gregory of Nazianzen as well as his own younger brother Gregory of Nyssa to accept bishoprics where they could effectively counteract heretical teaching. The last of Basil’s writings was on the Holy Spirit after which this “Glorious Apostle” was crowned for his efforts.