Blessed Severinus Boethius

Author: Rev. Clifford Stevens


Feast: October 22

Boethius is considered by some to be a martyr for the faith, but his sainthood is doubted by others. However, he is listed in <Butler's Life of the Saints> as a martyr, and his story is interesting because of his influence on the thought of the later Middle Ages. He is certainly one of the most outstanding Christian thinkers of the early Christian centuries, and his <Consolation of Philosophy> has inspired saints and martyrs through the centuries.

Blessed Severinus Boethius was one of those rare minds that can assimilate knowledge and pass it on in an understandable form. He planned to translate the whole of Plato and Aristotle into Latin to share the Greek wisdom with his contemporaries. He also wrote a treatise on the Trinity that is considered a major work of Western theology.

He was born when Odoacer, the Ostrogoth, had become ruler of Italy, and when Boethius was thirteen, Odoacer was overthrown by Theodoric. He entered public life in the footsteps of his father and in 510 was made consul by Theodoric.

Theodoric began to suspect that certain of his nobles were plotting with the emperor in Constantinople to overthrow his government, and Albinus, an ex-consul and friend of Boethius', was charged with treason. Boethius defended Albinus in court, was himself accused of being part of the plot, and imprisoned. It was in prison that he wrote his best known work, <The Consolation of Philosophy>. He found no defenders, even among his friends, and not even his father-in-law, Symmachus, stood up for his innocence.

Boethius was cruelly tortured and died a violent death. He was buried in the cathedral at Ticinium, and his relics are now in the church of St. Peter at Pavia.

He was honored as a martyr, since Theodoric was Arian, but the most that can be said is that he died unjustly. The reflective manner in which he faced death was an inspiration to others, and his works were one of the important sources of writings throughout the Middle Ages. He died in the year 524.

Thought for the Day: Blessed Severinus Boethius reflected on the fleetingness of life, how fast it passes, and how unstable human existence is. This made him look beyond his death to a more enduring life. That is a profoundly Christian message, and it is obvious from his life and death that he lived it fully.

From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': Hold tightly to the pattern of truth I taught you, especially concerning the faith and love Christ Jesus offers you. Guard well the splendid, God-given ability you received as a gift from the Holy Spirit, who lives within you.—2 Timothy 1 :13-14

(Taken "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.)