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The Catholic Must Stand Alone If Necessary to Uphold the Truth
Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was at its height in the mid 4th century. Emperor Valens put great pressure on St. Basil to remain silent and admit the heretics to communion. St. Basil, Archbishop of Caesarea, remained firm, and Valens backed down. He strove mightily to unite and rally his fellow Catholics who were crushed by tyranny and torn by internal dissension. At the end of his life, his efforts might have seemed in vain. His health was breaking, the Goths were at the door of the Byzantine Empire, Antioch was in schism, the Bishops refused to be brought together as he wished. Yet he made no compromises in doctrine to bring the heretics into communion.

St. Basil describes his apostolate succinctly: Expose error, preserve the Faith of the Fathers integrally, and help the faithful to avoid following apostates to damnation. As St. Basil tells us, he absolutely refused to remain silent to have peace. He counseled the faithful to not follow the multitude, but remain completely alone if necessary to uphold the truth.

St. Basil of Caesarea:

Let the Faith of our Fathers be proposed to those who are misled but of good will, with all tenderness and charity. If they will assent thereunto, let us receive them into our midst. Should they not assent, let us dwell by ourselves alone, regardless of numbers; and let us keep aloof from equivocating souls, who are not possessed of that simplicity without guile, indispensably required in the early days of the Gospel.

The believers, as written in Scriptures, had but one heart and one soul. Let those, therefore, who would reproach us for not desiring pacification, mark well who are the real authors of the disturbance. Let them not call for reconciliation on our side anymore.

To every specious argument that would seem to counsel silence on our part, we oppose this other argument, namely, that charity counts as nothing, either her own proper interests or the difficulties of the times. Even though no man is willing to follow our example, what then? Are we for that reason alone to abandon duty? In the fiery furnace, the children of the Babylon captivity chanted their canticle to the Lord, without making any reckoning of the multitude who set truth on one side. They were quite sufficient for one another, merely three as they were! …

So, take heart! under every stroke, renew yourselves in love; let your zeal gain strength every day, knowing that in you are to be preserved the last remains of godliness which the Lord, at His return, may find upon the earth. …

Heed not what the crowd may think, for a mere breath of wind is sufficient to sway the crowd to and fro, like the rippling wave. Even though only one were to be saved, as in the case of Lot out of Sodom, it would not be lawful for him to deviate from the path of rectitude, merely because he finds that he is the only one that is right. No; he must stand alone, unmoved, holding fast his hope on Jesus Christ.”


Blason de Charlemagne
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St. Basil of Caesarea, Epistle 128

Posted on June 29, 2024

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