I do not know where I came across this image of St. Basil the Great giving alms to the poor and wounded — if anyone can turn up its source, please let me know — but I love it because it captures something of the man who, for me, is the greatest model of Christian leadership the Church has ever produced. The man who was in his time and place the chief defender of orthodoxy against the Arians was also the person who essentially invented the hospital and was relentless in his advocacy for the poor.

In one of his greatest sermons, he said to the wealthy of Cappadocia,

Think, you who call yourselves ‘Benefactor’! Be mindful of yourself, who you are, of what things have been placed in your charge, from Whom you received them, and why you were favored above others. You have been made a servant of the good God; an administrator for your fellow servant…. For a little while these things will give you pleasure; then flowing away from you they disappear, and then you must with exactness render an account of them. But you try to lock them up and keep them hidden using bolts and bars and under seals. You watch them anxiously and think, ‘What will I do?’

‘What will I do?’ Offhand, I would say, ‘I shall fill the souls of the hungry. I shall open my barns and I shall send for all who are in want. I shall be like Joseph in proclaiming the love of my fellow human being.’

As some of us contemplate a Benedict Option, let us remember Basil and the other Cappadocians. They are the greatest models that our Christian history offers us.