17 February, Thursday — On Church

17 Feb – Memorial for The 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

Jas 2:1-9
Mk 8: 27-33

“… show no partiality as you adhere to the faith”

Embedded into the floor of the church where I now worship, is a large flagstone of slate and copper, engraved with the words from Isaiah, “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa 56:7).

I seem to have found a home here, within its walls, which is odd. Odd, because no one has asked if I need to be put in touch with anyone for stewardship purposes, and no one has tried to ‘sell me’ on the various groups I could join, to feel like I belong. People have simply smiled warmly at me on Sunday Mass and allowed me the space to make that first move. This is new for me, but I like that I’ve been given space. I came here seeking calm and peace. I seem to have found it.

They say the ‘house finds its owner’. I wholly believe it. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d become a bit overscheduled at my previous church. I loved all the activity and fellowship that revolved around the community, and for a time it brought purpose to my life. But having stepped back from it, I see now that I did it more for myself than for God. I did it for the recognition and, if I’m honest, I did it because it accorded me some sort of social standing. Like belonging to a private club.  

I’ve observed many who are like me at the new place of worship. We show up at the first mass on Sunday, the ‘early doors’ one. We sit in the same spots. We arrive alone. We pray quietly. We leave alone. Sometimes, we bid each other peace. I don’t always make it to Mass, but there is no judgment when I don’t. And at confession, I feel like I am treated with compassion and empathy, not judgment.

In a world gone mad with divisiveness, showboating and tribalism, it is both a comfort and a surprise to me that the Catholic Church still serves as a sanctuary. And because I have been given time to discover it anew for myself, I’ve found myself returning. I see different faces here, people from different demographics, people I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet before. I think we’re all looking for the same thing – a little bit of sanity, tolerance, quiet, peace. I look forward to the day when I am ready to make their acquaintance, and they are ready to make mine. Who knew that acceptance, respect and restraint could be effective tools for outreach?  

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern God’s path for us and the discipline to follow it, rather than chase the impulses of our own vanity.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Holy Spirit for guiding us away from the things that are not for us.

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