Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Servulus, Confessor

detail of an Italian holy card of Saint Servulus of Rome by Bertoni, date unknownArticle

At the time of Saint Gregory the Great, there was at Rome a poor beggar, named Servulus, of whose virtue and holiness, this great Pope and Doctor of the church gives the following testimony. Servulus was a beggar, who was daily carried into the vestibule of Saint Clement’s Church to receive alms from those who passed by. From his earliest infancy he had been so crippled, that he could neither walk nor stand, nor sit upright, but remained continually lying, without being able to turn from one side to the other. He could not lift his hand to his mouth, and his mother and brother fed him like an infant. To this was added the poverty of his mother, who could maintain herself and her son only by alms. But notwithstanding this misery, there never escaped from the lips of this poor beggar a single word of complaint, either for his misery, or the violence, or long duration of his suffering. Much less was he heard to murmur against God or His holy will, but on the contrary, he edified all by his submission to divine Providence, encouraging himself with verses of Holy Writ and never ceasing to praise the Most High. His most agreeable occupation consisted in praying and singing psalms, or listening to pious reading. His patience was inexhaustible, even during his greatest agony, and no pain was so great as to cause him to cease giving thanks to the Lord. He had great compassion on other poor, and therefore caused his mother and brother to give to them what he did not need of the alms he had received. Although the house, in which he lived with his mother and brother, was small and poor, yet many poor religious who came to Rome found a welcome there, when they could not find other lodgings. Servulus profited by their presence by humbly begging them to read to him out of some devout book. He himself could not read, and yet he knew almost the entire Scriptures by heart; for, out of the alms he received, he had bought a copy of Holy Writ, as well as other devout books, from which sometimes one, sometimes another would read to him. When he had no one to do this act of kindness, he paid some poor person to read to him, either at his house or at the place where he used to receive alms. By this he gained great knowledge of the lives of the Saints, and preserved his heroic patience until his death. For many years the Almighty gave a great example of virtue to the Christian world in His faithful servant, Servulus, until at length He called him to heaven to receive his eternal reward. When the holy man perceived that his end was near, although he had daily prepared himself for death, he redoubled his zeal in order to die well. Having done all that a pious Christian can do in such circumstances, he, one night, suddenly called the religious, who were just then lodging with men, and begged them to sing some psalms with him, as death was approaching. He began to sing although his voice was already half broken. Suddenly pausing, he exclaimed: “Hush, hush! Do you not hear the angels sing? Do you not hear how beautifully they exalt and praise God?” and, turning his eyes upward as though he saw the angels, he breathed his last; while, at the same moment, his holy body exhaled so sweet an odor that those around were filled with astonishment and joy. There was not one who did not believe that the holy soul of Servulus had gone immediately to heaven, accompanied by the angels, to sing with them the hymns of eternal bliss, since he had lived so holy and innocent a life, had borne his wearisome disease with such heroic patience and resignation to the divine will, and had been honored, in death, with angelic music.

Practical Considerations

• You have read how severely Saint Servulus suffered from the first year of his life until his end, and also in what manner he bore his sufferings. Are you not ashamed to lose your patience and complain in your suffering and sickness, which is not a shadow of what Saint Servulus endured? You perhaps say or think, that there is no one on earth that suffers as you do; that you have to bear every cross. But you are mistaken. Saint Servulus suffered much more; and many others have suffered much more: and there are at this moment a great many persons living, who bear infinitely more than you. But supposing that you have in reality more to suffer than any one else, does it give you any reason to complain or murmur against God? Do you think God unjust, or that He does you wrong by giving you so much to suffer? Have you not deserved even more? Perhaps you say: “Why do I suffer so much and others not?” Saint Servulus spoke not thus. Do you require that the Almighty should give you His reason, for what He does? How dreadful a presumption! Suffer what God lays upon you and leave others alone. God is your Lord, and it does not become you to question why He does this or that. The thought that all He does is for your good, ought to satisfy you. Who can know whether, had Saint Servulus possessed health and straight limbs, he would not have made use of them to his own damnation? And who knows what you would do, if you were free from sickness, troubles and crosses? “To many persons health is hurtful,” says Saint Augustine. Just so is continual prosperity hurtful to them, while adversity, sickness and crosses are useful to their salvation. Think of this truth if you suffer innocently like Saint Servulus. But if your conscience tells you, that you have sinned, then say not a word; suffer and be silent; for. you have deserved more than you have suffered. “No matter how much we may suffer,” says Saint Salvianus, “we always suffer less than we deserve. Why then do we complain that God is hard? We arouse the wrath of God by our sins, and so to say, force Him to punish us.”

• How ingenious is the desire to learn something good! As Saint Servulus was not able to read and yet anxious to learn how to live piously, he made others read aloud to him from devout books. If no one was there to do him this kindness, he took from the alms which had been given him and paid some one to read to him. This pious practice was the source from which he drew the wonderful patience and strength of mind with which he bore his great pains, and which made him so great a Saint. I have, during the year, several times advised you, that besides going to Church on Sunday and holidays, you should employ some time in reading a devout book, as the profit you would derive from it is much greater than you imagine. I repeat my advice and assure you that as, in our time, the greatest harm is done to our holy religion and to Christian morals, by the reading of heretical and immoral books, so also hardly anything is more necessary for the preservation of the true religion and the fear of God, as well as for sincere repentance and conversion, than the reading of devout books, besides listening to the word of God in sermons. As you value your holy religion and your salvation, do not neglect reading pious books or cause them to be read for you as did Servulus.

In order to contribute as much as I could to this important object, I have published myself, a series of instructive books, and wish them to be read in every family. These books are: Catholicity, Protestantism and Infidelity, or the book for the conversion of Americans; The Manual of the Catholic Doctrine; The Sacred Heart Mission Book; The Book on the Infallibility of the Pope; Easter in Heaven; The Lives of the Saints with Practical Considerations; Photographic Views; and three Catechisms of Christian Doctrine. Try to get all these books and see that they are read by your children, especially these Lives of the Saints, every evening, and I will remember you at Mass every day of my life and pray for you after my death.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Servulus, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 14 November 2018. <>