St Servatius healing oil
The St Servatius healing oil is dedicated to the patron of foot problems and lameness.
The presence of Servatius is recorded at several synods and church councils. Athanasius, leader of the anti-Arian party, was in exile in Trier. He may have met with Servatius. Both men campaigned against local Arian bishops and priests. In addition, at the Council of Cologne Servatius testified against the bishop of Cologne. Servatius said that “he denied the divinity of Jesus Christ”. St Athanasius was present.
Co-emperor Constance was assassinated in 350. Servatius was sent to the Roman emperor in Edessa. He represented the late Constans as an unworthy tyrant and oppressor. The mission failed. The resulting civil war ended with the death of Magnentius in 353. The mission can be seen as a sign of the high standing of Servatius. In 359, the Council of Rimini reports that Servatius eloquently denounced Arianism.
Source is Gregory of Tours
An important source about the life of Saint Servatius, is Gregory of Tours. In his late 6th-century account, Gregory writes about Servatius. He was a bishop of Tongeren and died in Maastricht. According to him, Servatius lived at the time when the Huns threatened Tongeren. However, this does not match the 4th-century dates of the synods. Also, it is not always clear how much of Gregory’s account is history. Some of it may be (pious) fiction.
During a vigil at St Peter’s tomb in Rome, Servatius had a vision. It showed the destruction of Tongeren. Peter then handed the Keys of Heaven to Servatius. He thus transferred to him the power to forgive sins. According to Gregory, Servatius returned to Tongeren. Also, he brought the relics of his predecessors to Maastricht. There he died. He was buried alongside the Roman road, near the bridge.
St Servatius founded a number of churches.
As a bishop, Servatius was the founder of several early Christian churches in the diocese of Tongeren. One was the Basilica of Our Lady in Tongeren. The 2nd was the Basilica of Our Lady in Maastricht. In the case of Tongeren, this traditional claim was supported by excavations in the 1980s. These revealed under the medieval church remains of a 4th-century church. It is possibly the original cathedral of the diocese. The origins of the Maastricht church of Our Lady remain uncertain. Also, no excavations have ever been carried out inside this church. The Basilica of St Severatius, excavations in the 1990s have revealed the remains of a 6th-century church. In addition, it was described by Gregory of Tours as a magnum templum. At its center is a late Roman structure, possibly the tomb of Servatius.
Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.