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.
Throughout the earth men spoke the same language, with the same vocabulary. Now as they moved eastwards they found a plain in the land of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them in the fire.’ (For stone they used bricks, and for mortar they used bitumen). ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us build ourselves a town and a tower with its top reaching heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves, so that we may not be scattered about the whole earth.’
Now the Lord came down to see the town and the tower that the sons of man had built. ‘So they are all a single people with a single language!’ said the Lord. ‘This is but the start of their undertakings! There will be nothing too hard for them to do. Come, let us go down and confuse their language on the spot so that they can no longer understand one another.’
The Lord scattered them thence over the whole face of the earth, and they stopped building the town. It was named Babel therefore, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth. It was from there that the Lord scattered them over the whole face of the earth.
Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
This post is for the dreamers amongst us who want to chase their dreams and make it a reality.
We all have dreams, be it big or small. We may feel frightened to chase our dreams, because maybe we’re afraid that people will think it is silly, or we are afraid of failure, or that it won’t provide a proper living. Maybe we don’t know how to begin. So the dream remains just a dream, like a seed in a store cupboard, unplanted and therefore will never get a chance to grow.
No dream is insignificant. God has given us each a dream to pursue, and has equipped us with the necessary talents to help us fulfill those dreams. We cannot compare ourselves to the next person; God has chosen for each of us a dream that fits us, tailor-made to our personality, so that each of us is unique in our dreams. Even the trials that come to test us will be unique to build our character and perseverance. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” How wonderful is this — that God already has in mind a dream for us to be a baker, artist, dancer, scientist, astronaut, mountaineer, fighter pilot, novelist, and He sets alight the passion in our hearts that we might fulfill it, giving us the right tools for it.
Yet sometimes the fear still overtakes us. Perhaps we think that the timing is not right. I ask myself that same question all the time, “when is the right time”? When we have saved enough for a fallback plan for 5 years? When the kids have all grown up and gone to school? We may end up pursuing something else for security reasons, and like a cat trying to think it is a dog, we force ourselves to believe we were made for something else. We become good at it, but we don’t realize that maybe we could have been better at what God intended, because we already had the right skills for it.
As we can see from today’s first reading, if we try to do something that God has not intended for us, our plans will be frustrated. We might just end up being in a confused state of mind. And what about if we forced our hand to do something else and really did become good at it? Perhaps some amongst us have felt as though our lives were empty, like we haven’t fulfilled our potential, or our dreams. When we reach our 30s or 40s, we have what is fondly known as ‘midlife crisis’, but that could just be us questioning what we have done in the past 30 years or so since we finished studying. What have we to show after all those years? Maybe we are a CEO or director of a big company. If we are happy about it and if this is what we believe is our dream, then congratulations! Yet I suspect many of us are going around feeling ‘unfulfilled’, which is probably why Steve Jobs’ speech on doing what you love is such a popular speech — most of us aren’t doing what we love, we’re just going around blindly day after day, because we have to make ends meet. How will we account for this though when we are too old, or when we meet our Maker? God might say, “Hey, I gave you all these gifts and put a dream in your heart, but you went and did something else. Why didn’t you use what I gave you?”
Pursuing dreams is a big leap of faith, but I sincerely believe in them, and I pray you will receive direction from God for your dreams. “May He grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your counsel!” (Psalm 20:4)
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, I pray for wisdom and guidance to see the path You have set forth for me, courage to pursue the dreams that you have put in my heart, and faith to hold on to that dream especially when the chips are down.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving each of us a dream and the talents to fulfill it. We believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!