In today’s catechesis on the early Church fathers, Pope Benedict focused on St. Basil. Referring to the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, the Holy Father called Basil a "light of the Church." The audience, attended by 12,000 people, began in St. Peter’s Basilica and then was 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 ran schools and hospitals and served the poor, thus demonstrating the integrity of their Christian life." These hospitals soon became the model for our 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 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."