SAINT BASIL OF CAESAREA
In AD 369, Saint Basil of Caesarea founded the first large-scale hospital for the poor and sick in what is now modern-day Turkey. In the ancient world, very few formal institutions existed to care for the sick, especially people who were poor or disabled. Those that were built cared for a small and exclusive portion of the population. (For example, ancient Rome had military hospitals.) Basil built a large complex called the Basiliad that included a 300-bed hospital, a hospice, wards for travelers who were sick, and a unit for people with leprosy.
The Basiliad was the first of many hospitals built by the Christian church throughout the world in ancient and modern times. In following the example of Jesus, the dedication of Jesus-followers to care for the poor and sick started a movement that led to the advancement of healthcare worldwide.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Basil, a bishop and famous preacher in the Catholic church, abandoned a life of wealth and comfort and a legal and teaching career to devote his life to God. In a letter describing his spiritual calling, Basil said, “I had wasted much time on follies and spent nearly all of my youth in vain labors, and devotion to the teachings of a wisdom that God had made foolish. Suddenly, I awoke as out of a deep sleep. I beheld the wonderful light of the Gospel truth, and I recognized the nothingness of the wisdom of the princes of this world.”
Throughout his life, Basil was dedicated to serving the poor and fighting for justice. His letters show a faithful follower of Jesus who warned his peers against the temptation of wealth. He gave away his personal family inheritance to benefit the poor in his church. During a period of famine, he personally organized a soup kitchen and distributed food to the poor. He also courageously criticized public officials who failed in their duty of administering justice.