Much loved and admired

Basilio was much loved and admired. One would need to read a few of the letters Basilio received. The introductory greetings are to be noted. An old boy from Uruguay wrote, “We just received, the heart filled with a deep joy, your kind letter a few days ago…’’ (Afm. 51.09. D3 84 05 073)

A letter from Brasil starts as follows: “I felt extremely happy to have had the opportunity to talk with you. That was a very special privilege; these brief moments made me a lot of physical and spiritual good.’’ (Afm. 51.09. D3 83 01 192)

The Tulle bishop, Monsignor J.B. Brunon wrote to him, “Thank you for your letter that showed so much delicate regard to me! My very dear Brother, you were born in Heaven, in Mexico and at Marlhes. These three birth places are yours…’’ (Afm. 51.09.D2 81 07 135).

One just wonders how he could create such attraction, how so many people enjoyed his friendship. Basilio was a friendship genius. Whether by his duty or by friendship he wrote quite an amount of letters. He declared having sent fifty thousand of them as per 1985… (Our archives hold as many letters written by Brother Quentin Duffy, his Vicar General during eighteen years. We don’t speak much of the latter who was a very efficient man who assumed the administration of the Congregation while Basilio took care of its animation. By tying himself down to his desk work, he allowed Brother Basilio to give the best of himself and to bloom in his personal contact with the Brothers. Thus, the Marist Brothers must be as grateful to Brother Quentin as to Brother Basilio.)

Brother Basilio answered every letter he received. Whenever he could enjoy a little free moment he would work on his replies. He wrote wherever he happened to be: in airport or train lounges, in the planes. He sometimes recorded his letters on audio cassettes and let his secretaries do the remainder of the correspondence. Some of his letters consisted of a few lines only while others added up to twenty pages! He had friends in the whole world; it is probable that he could discover every positive aspect in all the persons he met.

With his hundred intimate friends he corresponded more frequently. This group included brothers, priests, bishops, apostolic nuncios specially Alfredo Bruniera of Lebanon. He also corresponded with cardinals Garonne and Pironio; with other Superiors General e.g. the Jesuits’ superior, Father Arrupe and Father Bernasconi of the Barnabites; with former pupils and many ordinary people. He even wrote to an Ecuador taxi driver who had given him a long sociology lesson. And surprisingly: to the children who had sent him cards with humorous drawings he cared to write back in the same vein.
The Barbanite Fathers had developed such a friendship with Brother Basilio that their constitutions invited them to a great friendship with the Marist Brothers.
Father Rotondi, founder of Oasi, near Rome who readily confided in Basilio, believed himself inspired by God to found a congregation of priests at the service of the Brothers.
Father Lombardi, founder of the Better World Movement could not cease praising and thanking Brother Basilio.

Basilio had to face a whole spectrum of human dramas and feelings. How could he keep that up?
-He was a man who lived in great intimacy with God. His friends knew the fact and this is why they had recourse to him. They were sure to receive a word, or an advice or a letter which had ripened in front of God, which had been nurtured by Basilio’s prayers.
-Basilio knew how to win a friendship because his heart was enlightened and warmed up by God.
-He often ended up his circulars with a day of prayer and rest outside the Mother House. At such moments, he sometimes invited his most intimate collaborators to join him.

It was known that Basilio was a great night worker that could work up to 4 A.M. At such a time he figured it was useless to go to bed for one hour only. Thus, he would move to the chapel and wait for the Brothers to come and join him for morning prayers…
Many Brothers will remember Basilio’s retreats on contemplation. This is the theme he favoured, for he was rightly convinced he would save the congregation if he could instil the taste for personal prayer and the longing for the union with God into the Brothers’ hearts. One can guess Basilio’s intimacy with God in all his circulars specially in the one on obedience which is a spiritual masterpiece. It is no wonder that Brother Basilio was considered as one of the greatest spiritual masters according to Vatican II.

In Central America: a priest begged Brother Basilio for permission to join the Brothers in a retreat that he (Br. Basilio) was going to preside. The priest, ‘’I must train the diocesan priests according to the Council’s ideas and I know that you are one of the great specialists on that score.’’ Father Francisco Migoya who directed Basilio for the thirty days of the Ignatian Great Exercises in April-May 1986 expressed his surprise to find a man with such great spiritual depth, able to spend hours of intimacy with God.
When he became the master of the novices in Mexico, he evidently directed all his efforts to train his novices along the human and spiritual lines but his greatest stress was on prayer and contemplation.
We know what has been said above ; yet we find everything at the same time extraordinary and normal. Basilio was simplicity itself, so much a brother among other brothers, so helpful that we stopped admiring him. His Mexican novices could hardly believe that Basilio had been the superior general, a great lecturer at home and at large, the invited guest at many Marist international meetings, the man the major superiors of other societies wanted to listen to. With all his audiences even at the Vatican, Basilio was simple, direct, a brother more than a master. We were dealing with an extraordinary man who had a gift to simplify all problems.

Basilio’s work and all his circulars wanted to give new features to our religious lives. He could clearly see what Vatican II wanted and his only desire was to instil his vision into the hearts of his ten thousand brothers. One could expect that task to progress slowly because mentalities and habits take time to change. The new Marist Brother had to try and develop a greater intimacy with God, he had to show more transparency and love in his community relationships than before. Besides, this new brother had to accept to dare and try new forms of apostolate. We do understand Basilio better and better now. With this clearer perception we are grateful for all his efforts.

His final sickness aroused emotion everywhere. Messages soon started rolling in from the four corners of the world to express affection, to promise prayers and to reveal the deep pain felt. Many people had just lost a great friend, a real leader, a man God had sent us to enlighten us on our difficult pilgrimage after the Council. It is very touching to read the various speeches that were made during the funeral ceremonies. All exalted the outstanding man Basilio had been. Many of the witnesses reported that they were now praying to Basilio every day. There were enough reports to fill up a special FMS MESSAGE issue: no 19 of May 1996. Many Mexican magazines also reported the sad event. Many people felt it their duty to write what they knew about him. This brought on Quemar la Vida, a very deep and illustrated book. Then El Estilo de una Vida appeared filled with thousands of sympathetic and astounding testimonies. Our Institute had never experienced such a phenomenon.

Basilio is a brother we have known, a man well adjusted to our time, passionately fond of our world with its shadows and lights. He was one of the most lucid and luminous consciences of today’s man. Often ahead of his time he foresaw the world changes and tried to analyse them; there was something prophetic in him. He wrote to a former student who had showed his distress as regarded the decadence of our society’s values, ‘’That has been an enormous wave that practically covered the whole society, the Church and all the Congregations; we must observe and try to analyse this peculiar event from within. Those changes brought us many good things and many bad ones as well as many other ambivalent ones. In this context the religious Congregations must renew themselves, turn to the Lord and fulfil their pastoral or educational duties towards God’s people.’’ (Afm. 51.09.D3, 2-11-1984.) Enriched by the XXth century culture, creator of a spirituality for today, optimistic by nature and by his familiarity with God, he is really a model that is not foreign or remote or impossible to imitate for he is our brother in all his simplicity.

During the first days of the XXth General Chapter, the Postulator General requested testimonies on Brother Basilio from all the Capitulants. We already had a lot of material but the intention was simply to be as well documented as possible.
The two Mexican provincial councils at a joint meeting in January 2002 gave their advice on the possible introduction of Brother Basilio’s cause: twelve out of thirteen gave their consent.
From the Mexican provinces the beatification procedures passed on to our new general council which decided to open Brother Basilio Rueda’s cause during its 5 June 2002 session.