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.
- Patron Saint Index
From James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion.
My brothers, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.
If there is any one of you who needs wisdom, he must ask God, who gives to all freely and ungrudgingly; it will be given to him. But he must ask with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea when the wind drives. That sort of person, in two minds, wavering between going different ways, must not expect that the Lord will give him anything.
It is right for the poor brother to be proud of his high rank, and the rich one to be thankful that he has been humbled, because riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass; the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, the flower falls; what looked so beautiful now disappears. It is the same with the rich man: his business goes on; he himself perishes.
The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.
“Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation”
How often have we been like the Pharisees, asking Jesus (or even God Himself!) for some sign of His love or faithfulness? Perhaps even more so than the Pharisees, we in this modern age seek ever greater signs and symbols of the divine, having been raised on a media diet of computer generated imagery (CGI) and movies. In this media saturated world of superheroes and Hollywood magic, it is easy to forget that God continues to weave His presence and work within the humdrum of our daily lives.
I did my RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at a Jesuit parish, and the spiritual director of the RCIA taught us Ignatian spirituality. I remember how each time before we ‘enter the scene’ of our Ignatian contemplation, the priest would ask us to sit in silence and feel the presence of God in the air around us, and in the air that we are breathing in. That in itself is the miracle. God does not need to give us any signs, because the very air that we breathe is a gift from Him.
Perhaps this is why Jesus said that ‘no sign will be given to this generation’. Because God has already given us ample signs of His love and providence. It is also striking that James in the first reading says “consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”.
Indeed, that very perseverance and faith in God is itself a grace and sign from our Father in heaven. This also means that we need to play our part, in order to see these signs and receives these graces that are freely given to us. And what exactly is this part that we need to do? We simply need to trust Him and to persevere in times of hardship, suffering and persecution.
(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your love and grace, and above all, for the wisdom to see how You have always given these to us.
Thanksgiving: We are thankful, O Lord, for the daily gifts and graces that You have bestowed upon us. We are grateful for Your gift of life, and the chance that You have given us to continue loving, serving and praising You through our lives.