Saint of the Day – 23 December – Saint Servulus (Died c 590) Layman, Beggar, paralysed by Palsy from birth, – born in the 6th century in Rome, Italy and died in c 590 of natural causes.
Saint Servulus was a perfect model of submission to the divine Will; it would be difficult to offer a more consoling example to persons afflicted by poverty, illnesses and the other miseries of life. It is Saint Gregory the Great who narrates for us his edifying story:
“We have seen under the portico of the Church of Saint Clement, a poor man named Servulus, who is known to all the people of Rome as to Us. He was deprived of all the goods of this world; a long illness had reduced him to a pitiful state. From his youth he was paralysed in all his members. Not only could he not stand up but, he was unable to rise from his bed; he could neither sit down nor turn himself from one side to the other, nor bring his hand to his mouth. Nothing in him was sound except his eyes, ears, tongue, stomach and entrails.
This unfortunate man, who had learned the mysteries of religion, meditated unceasingly on the sufferings of the Saviour and never did he complain. He was surrounded by the loving care of his mother and brother. Neither the mother nor the children had ever studied, yet the paralytic had pious books bought for himself, in particular the Psalms and the Holy Gospels and he would ask the religious who came to visit him on his cot, to read from them to him. In this way he learned these books by heart; he spent days and part of the nights in singing or reciting them and meditating them and he constantly thanked the Lord for having taken him to be a victim associated with the pains and sufferings of Jesus Christ.
Many alms came to the little house of the paralytic, to such an extent that he became rich in his poverty. After having taken from these what was necessary for his subsistence and that of his mother, he gave the rest to the indigent, who often assembled around him to be edified by his words and his virtues. His bed of pain was a pulpit of preaching, from which he converted souls.
When the time came which was decreed by God to reward his patience and put an end to his painful life, Servulus felt the paralysis spreading to the vital parts of his body and he prepared for death. At the final moment, he asked those in attendance to recite Psalms with him. Suddenly he cried out: “Ah! Don’t you hear that melody resounding in heaven?’” At that moment his soul escaped from his body, which, until his buria,l gave forth a marvellous fragrance.”
St Gregory the Great concludes the account he gives of Servulus, in a sermon to his people, by observing that the behaviour of this poor sick begger loudly condemns those who, when blessed with good health and fortune, neither do good works nor suffer the least cross with tolerable patience. He speaks of him as one who was well known both to himself and his hearers and says, that one of his monks, who was present at his death, used to speak of the fragrant smell which came from the dead beggar’s body. Servulus was a true lover of God, not careful and troubled about his own life but solicitous that God be honoured and all that he could suffer for this end, he looked upon as reward. By his constancy and fidelity, he overcame the world and all bodily afflictions.
St Servulus was buried at Saint Clement’s Church, Rome, the place that had been his habitual place of prayer and veneration and where, so many came to pay their respects to him and learn from his holy and learned words. From the porch of this Church he was called to heaven. His feast is annually celebrated in that Church on the Coelian Hill outside of which he was wont to lay.