St Severinus of Noricum

(in modern day Austria), (entered heaven this day in 482)

Dear Norm,

In my humble opinion (which may be significantly clouded by having spent so much time in this ersatz prison, staring at dully carpeted cubicle walls by the pale and noisy light of fluorescent lamps… then again, my humble opinions could benefit from such an experience, as it purges me from all superfluous attachments… I don’t know, you be the judge), you needn’t worry so much about changing majors.  The good old virtue of prudence teaches us to be careful, patient, and balanced in making decisions, but it also teaches us that there are decisions, and then there are decisions.  Some decisions merit a lot of prayer, advice, and reflection (like who to marry, or what vocation to follow).  Others merit less.  This is one that merits less.  Trust me.  As long as you are being sensible and responsible, you can’t go too far wrong.  God will know how to guide you through whatever you decided, just as he guided today’s saints, amid much more confusing alternatives.

Severinus was a Roman nobleman who decided to make Christ his first priority not only in thought, but in deed.  He liquidated his wealth and gave it to the poor, then retired to become a hermit in Egypt.  He liked it.  But he heard God calling him back to the active life.  So he went.  He made his way north of the Alps, to Noricum (modern day Austria), where the poor Romanized inhabitants were being completely terrorized by the invading Germanic barbarians (among whom was to be found the infamous Attila the Hun).  Severinus, who was never ordained, and never made a bishop or anything, became the defender of these oppressed people.  He offered practical leadership (organized refugee camps, migrations to safer areas, food distribution, etc.) as well as spiritual leadership (we was a tireless speaker, and a marvelous wonder-worker – he miraculously multiplied food reserves, cured the sick, cast out devils, commanded the elements of nature, and even resurrected the dead one time).

The main theme of his teaching was the value of penance.  It was a propitious choice.  The sufferings of his people under the Germanic invasions were acute, and uniting them with Christ’s sufferings for the reparation of sin and the conversion of sinners enabled them to find meaning and strength amid calamity.  He also practiced what he preached.  In his constant barefoot journeying throughout Austria and Bavaria, he ate only one meal a day and slept on a gunny sack that he carried around with him, wherever he happened to find himself at bedtime.

You should reflect on his example.  It will give you confidence and peace of mind: though Severinus chose a hermit’s life (his first choice of a major), he made his mark by evangelization (his second).

Your loving uncle,


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