Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

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All You Need Is Love mural

It would be fun to imagine Saints Basil and Gregory at their family reunions. Basil’s father, mother, a grandmother, a sister and two brothers are all honored as saints. Gregory’s mother and father, his sister and brother are also honored as saints. It’s as if sainthood was the family business for these two unlikely friends and their clans.

“The shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes.” – St. Basil

Basil and Gregory were both born in 329 in Asia Minor (the country we now know as Turkey). They met in school as young men and formed a lifelong friendship. They were very different in terms of temperament, but very similar in terms of devotion to Christ.

Basil was what we, in the 21st century, would call an extrovert. He enjoyed human company and wrote that people “are gentle and sociable beings, and not solitary or savage. Nothing is as proper to our nature as to have need of one another.”

He bore out that understanding in his work. Basil organized a monastery that had a school and an orphanage attached to it. He started a soup kitchen. He gave away his own inheritance to care for the poor and hungry and he built a hospital to tend the sick and dying.

As bishop, Basil preached every morning and every evening to great crowds of people.

Gregory, who was what we would call an introvert, savored solitude. He loved quiet prayer and time spent alone with scripture. He wanted to live as a simple monk, never seeking priestly ordination. He wanted only to be with the One he called “my Christ.”

But people were attracted to Gregory’s goodness and his learning. They flocked to him for counsel and preaching. People were especially grateful for his teaching on the Holy Trinity, the Household of God. They begged him to leave his joyful silence and serve the larger church.

Gregory did not want to serve as a priest or as a bishop. Basil accused him of shirking his duty. The two had a painful fight.

Finally, Gregory answered the call to go out, preaching and teaching. He served both as a priest and as a bishop. Like Basil, he is remembered as a doctor of the church.

The two holy men were reconciled. When Basil died, Gregory preached at his funeral and asked Basil to welcome him one day into heaven.


Honor the good saints today by spending quiet time in prayer or by heeding Basil’s call and giving away some of your belongings to the poor. This is what Basil preached, “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person. The coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it. The shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes. The money you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help.”