Monday, May 22, 2017

LOST FEAST: May 22: St. Servatius, B.,C., Protector of the Order

 One of the feasts removed from the Dominican calendar during the early 20th Century was that of St. Servatius, a 4th Century bishop who lived in Gaul.  He was an unofficial protector of the Order of Preachers.  In the 1909 Dominican Breviary, his feast is a totum duplex.  In his book, "The History of the Dominican Liturgy", Fr. William Bonniwell, O.P., disputes the circumstances surrounding the legendary intervention by St. Servatius at the Chapter at Cologne.  You can find his argument here (beginning on p. 242).

From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):

SAINT SERVATIUS was of noble birth, and was May 22 renowned alike for his learning and sanctity. He became Bishop of Tongres in Belgium, which then formed part of Gaul, and in that capacity assisted at the Council of Sardica, where he strenuously defended the Catholic faith against the Arians. He likewise stoutly resisted these heretics at the Council of Rimini, and laboured to prevent the ill consequences which threatened the Church through their frauds and the weakness of the Bishops. Being sent by the tyrant Magnentius, together with Saint Maximin, Bishop of Treves, as ambassador to the Emperor Constantius, he was honourably entertained by Saint Athanasius at Alexandria. 

Saint Gregory of Tours states that Saint Servatius foretold the invasion of Gaul by the Huns, and implored the Divine mercy by watching, fasting, prayers, and many tears to avert so great a calamity from the flock entrusted to his care. For this intention he undertook a penitential pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Peter in Rome. As he was weeping and praying there, the Prince of the Apostles appeared to him and thus addressed him: "Wherefore dost thou importune me? The Lord has decreed that the Huns should enter Gaul and lay it waste in a terrible manner. Take my counsel, therefore; lose no time; set thy house in order, prepare thy grave, make ready a clean winding-sheet. Behold, thou shalt depart this life and shalt not witness the evils which the Huns are to bring upon Gaul, as the Lord our God hath spoken." 

The holy Bishop, therefore, returned in all haste to his diocese, and with many tears imparted the sad tidings to his heart-broken flock. "Holy Father, do not abandon us," they exclaimed; “Good Shepherd, forget us not." Very shortly afterwards he fell ill, as Saint Peter had foretold, and closed his saintly life by a holy death on the I3th of May, A.D. 384, after an episcopate of thirty-seven years. It is recorded that when all the country round was white with snow his tomb at Maestricht always remained free from it until the time when a church was raised over his holy remains. 

Saint Servatius was declared Protector of the Dominican Order in consequence of the following circumstances. In the fourteenth century the Church and the Order were suffering bitter persecution from the schismatical Emperor, Lewis of Bavaria. Learning that the General Chapter was convoked to meet in his dominions, at the city of Cologne, A.D. 1330, this prince secretly plotted the death of the capitular Fathers. They had just assembled, when Saint Servatius appeared in a dream to one of their number, a very holy religious, warned him of the danger which threatened himself and his Brethren, and bade them flee to Maestricht. This they accordingly did, thus escaping the snares which had been laid for them. And though their coming to Maestricht was wholly unexpected, God disposed the hearts of the inhabitants to receive them with the utmost kindness. In gratitude for this providential intervention, the Fathers decreed that the festival of Saint Servatius should henceforth be celebrated in the Order to the end of time. But, as it was at first instituted only under the rite of a Feast of Three Lessons, the great increase of festivals of higher rank caused it, after the lapse of years, to fall into disuse. To preserve the memory of so great a benefit, the Fathers, therefore, obtained permission from Pope Leo XII that the festival of Saint Servatius should be henceforth celebrated throughout the entire Order with the rank of a Totum Duplex, or Greater Double. 


Graciously hear these our prayers, we beseech Thee, O Lord, which we offer to Thee in this solemnity of Blessed Servatius, Thy Confessor and Bishop, that, as he deserved to do Thee worthy service, so, through his merits and intercession, Thou wouldst mercifully absolve us from all our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.