17 Feb – Memorial for Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites
The Order of the Servants of Mary (Servites) was named the fifth mendicant order by Pope Martin V. It was founded in 1233 by Sts. Alexis Falconieri, Bartholomew degli Amidei, Benedict dell’Antella, Buonfiglio Monaldi, Gherardino Sostegni, Hugh dei Lippi-Uguccioni, and John Buonagiunta Monetti.
They were beatified on 1 December 1717, and canonized on 1887 as The Seven Holy Founders. On the Feast of the Assumption in 1240, the Founders received a vision of Our Lady. She held in her hand a black habit, and a nearby angel bore a scroll reading “Servants of Mary”. Mary told them:
“You will found a new order, and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. This is your name: Servants of Mary. This is your rule: that of St. Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.”
From their first establishment at La Camarzia, near Florence, they moved to the more secluded Monte Senario where the Blessed Virgin herself conferred on them their habit, instructing them to follow the Rule of St. Augustine and to admit associates. The official approval for the order was obtained in 1249, confirmed in 1256, suppressed in 1276, definitely approved in 1304, and again by Brief in 1928. The order was so rapidly diffused that by 1285, there were 10,000 members with houses in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and early in the 14th century, it numbered 100 convents, besides missions in Crete and India.
The Reformation reduced the order in Germany, but it flourished elsewhere. Again meeting with political reverses in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it nevertheless prospered, being established in England in 1867, and in America in 1870.
The Servites take solemn vows and venerate in a special manner the “Seven Dolours of Our Lady”. They cultivate both the interior and the active life, giving missions and teaching. An affiliation, professing exclusively the contemplative life is that of the “Hermits of Monte Senario”. It was reinstated in France in 1922.
Cloistered nuns, forming a Second Order, have been affiliated with the Servites since 1619 when Blessed Benedicta di Rossi called the nuns of her community “Servite Hermitesses”. They have been established in England, Spain, Italy, the Tyrol, and Germany.
A Third Order, the Mantellate, founded by St. Juliana Falconieri under St. Philip Benizi (c. 1284) has houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, Canada, and the United States. Secular tertiaries and a confraternity of the Seven Dolours are other branches.
The Lord says this:
‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.
‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.’
1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20
If Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.
But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.
Jesus came down with the Twelve and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said:
‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.
‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.
‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’
“Your faith is in vain”
In the context of our Christian faith, truth prevails regardless of the choices we make, what we choose to believe in or otherwise, and what this world chooses to value versus what God reveals to us of the values that prevail in His kingdom. For example, if Satan himself was to appear in front of you one day and declare, at the top of his voice, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living and Almighty God, what would your reaction be like (shock and eye-popping aside)? Would you focus on the fact that this was a sentence uttered by Satan and hence become questionable or false? Or to recognize that regardless who states it, truth prevails. That our Lord is the son of the living Almighty God regardless who proclaims it, remains truth. Nothing changes that because God’s truth will always prevail. It is a light that the darkest darkness cannot overcome. And what is this truth? The readings today hold extremely important revelations to us about the truths of the resurrection, the fidelity of God and of His Kingdom values which are the very foundations of our Catholic faith.
God’s truths are absolute, not relative nor subject to the interpretations of man. There is no wishy-washiness, no ambiguity, no ifs and buts, no double-entendre, nothing equivocal – about what is being revealed today. The resurrection is not a “maybe it did happen, maybe it didn’t? ”. The fidelity of God is not a “perhaps if I counted on Him, things might turn out okay”. And the kingdom values of the Beatitudes point to what God holds cherished, despite how our world says, “… you gotta be kidding me … how can persecution, sorrow, hunger for justice, denunciation, being hated, poverty and humility possibly be good and be part of the Gospel values?
Yet, they are. God is infinitely bigger than our faith. God does not increase or diminish on the basis of the relative strength or weakness of our human faith. When the evil one uses the circumstances of our lives, our emotions and our thoughts to create falsehood, distraction and deception, God’s truth remains eternal, unchanged and unchanging – the truth of His love for His children, His power over all of creation, His unfailing fidelity to His own, His mercy, His grace.
For God speaks in words that are absolute:
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.”
“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord. He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers”
“Blessed are you … Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven …”
You can take these promises of God to the ‘bank’ and cash those in when you meet face-to-face with Him one day.
The truths are often antithetical to what can be understood, seen or felt. They transcend our thoughts and emotions, which the devil often uses to dumbfound us and deceive us away from the truth. They transcend all human science, understanding, senses, pride and convenience. God’s truth does not rely on what is known, what is seen and what is felt by man. Rather only on what is BELIEVED by him. It dwells and bears fruit only when we choose, through the Holy Spirit, to believe. To believe in His Word, His Character, His Wisdom, His Grace, His Love.
“If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain; If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable creatures of all”.
If you stop believing right here, right now, this very instance, in the resurrection of Christ, the fidelity of Christ, the Kingdom of Christ… indeed, your faith is in vain, and indeed, you are most pitiable. For then, there is only, falsehood and nothingness.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Father help us. Help us as we do battle each day in a world that more often than not, chooses not to believe that you are our living God but a dead thing hung on a piece of wood, to not rely on you to be our ever-faithful God, and that chooses not to live in your kingdom of deferred eternal salvation but rather on instant gratification.
Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the gift of your Spirit which brings all falsehood to eternal truth, all darkness to eternal light and all living death on earth to eternal life in your heavenly Kingdom.