The Basilian Order of St. Josaphat

Basilian Martyrs

The founder of the Basilian Fathers or Order of Saint Basil the Great (OSBM), is Saint Basil the Great (4th century). His ascetic rules became a model for Theodosiy of the Caves, one of the first monks on Ukrainian territory. He founded many monasteries in Ukraine. At the beginning of the 17th century Metropolitan Veniamin Rutskyj joined separate monasteries. In addition he prepared rules for the monks which still remain the basis of life of the OSBM.

This reform led to the unprecedented growth of the OSBM. During the period from the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 19th century the OSBM suffered severe losses through its complete liquidation on the territory which as a result of the division of Poland passed to the Russian Empire and through the suppression of monasteries on the territory of the Austrian Empire. Starting in 1882, according to the order of Pope Leo XIII, the Jesuit Fathers conducted the reform of the OSBM. Monks raised under this reform became missionaries in Brazil, Canada, the USA, and Argentina.

By 1949 the communist regime had liquidated all the European Basilian provinces (except for in Poland and Yugoslavia). Three hundred and fifty monks were sentenced to Siberia. Regardless of the severe losses, the OSBM operated actively in the underground period of the UGCC. Many new vocations appeared. At the same time the order continued to develop in Canada, the USA, Brazil and Argentina, in which there are presently 31 monasteries and approximately 250 monks. After the fall of the communist regime the provinces of the OSBM were revived in Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia. Today 30 monasteries and 37 residences operate in these countries.


The official denomination of the Order is "Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat" (Ordo Basilianus Sancti Josaphat); the traditional one is: "Order of Saint Basil the Great"; also in use is the popular term "Basilian Fathers".

Mission – Purpose

The purpose of the Order of St Basil consists in pleasing God in all things and seeking the Sanctification of the Religious through the practice of the evangelical councils. The specific function of the Order is dedication to the contemplative life and the Divine Praises, the exercise of pastoral activities of various kinds, the defense and strengthening of the Unity of Christians.

Pastoral work

In Ukraine it serves 62 parishes, more than 250 daughter churches, and nine mission stations in eastern Ukraine; publishing activity is the Missionary Publishing House in Lvivwith a printing-house in Zhovkva and the publishing house Record of the Order of Saint Basil the Great in Rome; educational activity - in almost every province there is a house for educating young monks, a house of philosophical studies, and a minor seminary; Basilians are the rectors of the Pontifical College of Saint Josaphat and Pontifical College S.M. Patrocinio in Rome and broadcast an educational radio program from the Vatican (Vatican Radio).

Basilian Fathers Monastery, Glen Cove, NY.

FAQs About the Basilian Fathers and the Ukrainian Catholic Church

How did Basilian monasteries reach Ukraine?
Greek missionaries from the south and Slavic missionaries from the west brought the Gospel of Christ and monastic life to the ancient lands of Rus’ (Ukraine).

Were the Basilians an Order at the time?
No. Religious Orders, comprised of many monasteries under one superior or rule, came to pass during the middle ages, in Western Europe. The Benedictines were the first such Order. In Ukraine, each monastery followed the rules of St. Basil or Saint Theodore Studite, but each had their own customs and regulations. They had no connection between them, and were under the jurisdiction of the local bishop.

When did the Basilian Order come into being?
In 1617. Saint Josaphat Kuncevych and Joseph Rutsky reformed the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Vilnus, (Lithuania). Their spiritual and practical zeal spread to other monasteries. In 1617, the first General Chapter was held, forming all the monasteries into the Congregation of the Holy Trinity of the Order of Saint Basil the Great.

Why did St. Josaphat and Rutsky unite the monasteries into one Order?
In 1595-96, the Ukrainian Church had re-affirmed their union with the Holy Roman Apostolic See. We call this The Union of Brest. The Pope and other hierarchs knew that the Ukrainian Church could only be strong and united if the monasteries were spiritually strong and healthy. Since most of them were decadent, the Pope personally selected Joseph Rutsky to work towards this reform. He found a spiritual friend in Josaphat Kuncevych, with whom he worked together to restore monastic spirituality and discipline.

St Josaphat Martyr

How did the new Order differ from the old-style independent monasteries?
The actual Rule of Saint Basil continued to be a spiritual guide. Monastic life was now regulated by the new Constitutions, which

replaced the many books of rules and customs of the old monasteries. Following the model of the Latin-Rite Mendicant Orders, each monk now made a specific (Solemn) Profession of three vows: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Even the Superior was bound to the written Constitutions and less room was left to private interpretation of St. Basil.

Monastic life began to develop in Ukraine right after its conversion to Christianity (980), the first monks settled in the caves near Kiev led by St. Anthony and St Theodosius.

What became of Rutsky and Josaphat?
Rutsky became Archimandrite (Superior) of the Basilians and then Metropolitan of Kyiv-Halyc, head of the Ukrainian Church. Josaphat became Archbsihop of Polotsk-Vitebsk and, in 1623, was martyred for his faith in the unity of the Church. In 1867, Saint Josaphat was canonized by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

What happened to the Basilians after Rutsky and Saint Josaphat?
The Order of Saint Basil the Great spread throughout all of what is today Belorus and Ukraine, in those lands belonging to the predominantly Catholic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Basilians were very much responsible for keeping-alive the distinctive religious and ethnic traditions among the Ukrainian people. As the Russian Empire continued to advance west into Ukraine, the Basilians were persecuted and dispersed. In 1795, Poland was finally divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria. The part of the Polish Crown taken by Austria was named Galicia.

Did the Basilian Order survive in Austrian Galicia?
Yes, but it did not flourish. A political and church philosophy called Josephism encouraged the State (Emperor Joseph II) to reform Church institutions. Josephism was based on 18th century rationalism, which preached the abolition of things that it could not see or understand. The first to go were the monasteries.

The Crest

The oval-shaped crest or shield contains a pillar of fire. In the Book of Exodus (13:21), God guided His people to salvation with a fiery pillar as a beacon. St. Gregory Nanzianus compared his friend, St. Basil the Great, to a burning fire, ablaze with ardent love of God and his fellowman. Surrounding the crest are an oak and olive branch. The oak represents courage, fortitude and perseverance. The olive symbolizes the peace of Christ and love of knowledge and wisdom. The crest is surmounted with a brilliant sun, containing the Slavonic monogram for Jesus Christ - IXC (Isus Xrystos). Christ is the Light of the World (John 9:5) who enlightens every man who comes into this world (John 1:9). Sometimes the Basilian emblem, or Blazon, contains the unofficial motto: Talis est Basilius Magnus,

Such is Basil the Great— a burning fire, ablaze with Christian love and zeal for the salvation of souls. Older versions of the Basilian blazon often contain a crown over the flaming pillar. This crown symbolizes the name of Basil (Basileus in Greek), which means king. The Troparion to the Saint refers to his royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), an expression also found in Basil's Eucharistic Anaphora. The Basilian Order was traditionally known as the Order of St. Basil the Great, in Latin, Ordo Sancti Basilii Magni- OSBM; Hence the initials that Basilians sign after their names. In 1932, in order to distinguish the Ukrainian Basilians from other Basilian Orders, the Order's official name was changed to the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat (Acta Apostolicae Sedis Vol. 24 (1932) 239-240).