Three Cappodocian Fathers




  1. For these students, concentrate on St. Gregory of Nyssa – his life and how he served the Lord.
  2. Students should know that his brother was St. Basil the Great.
  3. Students should know the word “hierarch” and that it means bishop. Gregory was bishop of Nyssa.
  4. Students should be able to name the three Cappadocian Fathers: Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa.
  5. Students should review from past years that the Three Hierarchs are St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Gregory Nazianzus.



Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. Tell the story of St. Gregory (Have your maps ready to locate Nyssa.):

St. Gregory was born about 300 years after the birth of Christ. He came from a strong Christian family; his brothers, St. Basil the Great and St. Peter of Sebastea, and his sister, St. Macrina, are all remembered today for their holiness. Their parents, Sts. Basil and Emmelia, died when Gregory was very young. Gregory was brought up by his older brother Basil and his sister Macrina. He was taught in the best schools of the day and was especially good at public speaking.

Soon after he finished school, Gregory married a Christian girl named Theosebeia and became a teacher. But, it was not long before he left teaching and became a priest. After several years of faithful work, his brother Basil chose Gregory to become bishop of Nyssa. This was a very difficult job. Many of the people of Nyssa believed the false teachings of a man named Arius and constantly argued with their new bishop. Finally, they told the governor that Gregory had stolen some money, and Bishop Grego­ry was arrested by the soldiers. He escaped and had to spend many years in hiding until the emperor made him bishop again.

Soon afterward, his brother Basil died. Now Gregory became one of the leading men of the church, standing firm for the true teachings of Jesus against many false teachers. Gregory tra­veled all over the empire to bring order and discipline into confused churches. He was a leader at the general councils of Antioch and of Constantinople. During his life and after his death, Gregory was recognized as one of the greatest Christian teachers. He wrote several books and letters that we still can read today. Finally, after a long and full life, Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, joined his brothers and sister with the Lord.


  1. Do the students remember anything about the lives of the other 2 Cappadocian Fathers: St. Basil the Great (studied when they were in the earliest class) and St. Gregory Nazianzus (studied when they were in the last class)? St. Basil was known best for his organization of monastic life, his liturgy (When do we celebrate it?), his strong defense against the teachings of Arius, and his care for the poor, sick, and orphans. He was bishop of Caesarea. Gregory Nazianzus is also known as Gregory the Theologian. He was friend of Basil and priest of Nazianzus after the death of his father. Basil appointed him Bishop of Sasima. Together with St. Gregory of Nyssa, the three are called the Cappadocian Fathers because they were from the region of Cappadocia. Locate it in Asia Minor on your maps. St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzus, along with St. John Chrysostom (What do the students remember from last week’s lesson?),  are also known as the “Three Hierarchs” – what is a hierarch? (bishop) These men were “theologians”; what is a theologian? They thought deeply about their faith and taught and wrote mightily.


4.   Play a learning game: Mystery Pictures. Have each student draw a picture of one of the hierarchs. Include enough detail to distinguish from the other three. Have each hold up his picture; can the others identify the bishop? Which are members of the group known to the church as the Three Hierarchs? Which are the Three Cappodocian Fathers?


  1. Make Bible Bookends: Take a brick for each child. Spray paint it (your choice of color) or leave it bare; glue a piece of felt on one small end. Color the pictures of each of the “Cappadocian Fathers”  – St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzus, and St. Gregory of Nyssa, the brother of St. Basil – or of the Three Hierarchs – St. Basil, St. Gregory, and St. John Chrysostom. Repeat the three names until the students can say them and identify them as the Three Cappadocian Fathers and the Three Hierarchs. Cut out and glue one on each of three sides of the brick. These make nice bookends or a doorstop.


  1. Close with prayer: Lord, give me the courage of St. Gregory whenever I face evil and have to stand up for good.