Minute Meditations

Basil the Great: Care for the Poor

In A.D. 368 when Cappadocia was stricken with a dire famine, the suffering was intense. Basil distributed the entirety of his inheritance to the poor. He also used Church funds to open soup kitchens where he was often found serving food, girded with an apron. Some of the people in his social class, however, both held on to their money and enjoyed profit from the higher prices resulting from decreased supply and increased demand. We are fortunate to still possess the text of a homily he preached to his peers during this crisis: “You refuse to give on the pretext that you haven’t got enough for your own need. But while your tongue makes excuses, your hand convicts you––that ring shining on your finger silently declares you to be a liar! How many debtors could be released from prison with one of those rings! How many shivering people could be clothed from only one of your wardrobes? And yet you turn the poor away empty-handed.”

— from the book When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers

When the Church was Young


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