Thursday, June 21, 2012


Feast Day : February 1

Severus of Ravenna
 Died c. 348.
 Severus was a poor weaver of Ravenna, Italy, who never dreamed that God would one day call him from his weaver's loom to rule a diocese, but God has strange ways of calling His servants and sometimes lays His hand upon them in the least likely places: from the plough and the bench have come some of the greatest of His apostles.

 So it happened that when the bishopric of Ravenna fell vacant in 283 and the cathedral was filled with those who had gathered to elect a new bishop, Severus said to his wife, Vincentia, that he would visit the minister and see what was going on. She replied that he had much better remain at home and not show himself in his working clothes among the nobles and well-dressed citizens. "What harm is there in my going?" he asked. "Why, you have work to do here," she answered, "instead of gadding about sightseeing." When he persisted, she said, "Go, and may you come back with a good box on your ear," and added sarcastically: "Go, then, and get elected bishop."

 Severus, accustomed to her sharp tongue, set out and, entering the crowded cathedral, stood at the back, ashamed of his working clothes covered with flocks of wool. When, in the course of the service, the power of the Holy Spirit was invoked in prayer, there appeared in the cathedral a white dove that attracted the attention of the assembly, and which after flying around fluttered at the ear of the poor spinner. He beat it off, but it returned and finally came to rest upon his shoulder. Every eye was now turned in his direction, and the people, regarding it as a heavenly sign, with one accord chose him to be their bishop.

 Vincentia was still at home, and when a neighbor came running, breathless, to her door with the news, she laughed and would not believe it. "What a tale," she said, "that a man who tosses a shuttle should be made a prelate!" But when another came with the same story, and yet another, and a crowd gathered at her door, and she found it was true, she was speechless.

 Thus, it came to pass that Severus the weaver became bishop of Ravenna and who can doubt that he was a good weaver, well respected for his work and character, and that he was chosen not only because of a good omen but also for his own fine qualities. For these he was chosen to accompany the papal legate to the synod of Sardica in 344.

 He made a good bishop, and when at last he came to die, he said his last Mass before all the people, then quietly dismissed them with his blessing. When all had departed save a single boy who served at the altar, he bade the boy close the doors, and clothing himself in his episcopal robes, went to the tomb of his wife and daughter, who had died before him. There with the help of the boy he raised the stone, and descending into the grave, laid himself down, and after a prayer closed his eyes and fell asleep. After his death he was canonized a saint, and is usually portrayed in his bishop's robes and with a weaver's shuttle (Benedictines, Gill).

 It may be that the dove was a common phenomenon, or that it was simply a pious addition to the story of unlikely bishops, but it occurs in several stories.

 In art, Severus is a bishop weaving. He may have a loom and weaver's tools and, possibly, a dove on his shoulder . He is the patron of glove makers, hatters, and weavers .

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