Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order

Assumption of Mary with St John by Bartlomiej Strobel

In the thirteenth century, when the persecution carried on by Frederick II was raging against the Church, there lived in Florence seven illustrious men who, united by the bonds of Christian charity, strove to make their lives conform as far as possible to the dictates of evangelical perfection. On the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 1233, when they were absorbed in prayer in the Laudesi chapel, Mary herself deigned to appear among them, inviting them to abandon all things and dedicate themselves to the service of her Son and herself. Promptly and joyfully they followed the summons of the Queen of Heaven and, abandoning wealth and relatives, withdrew to a solitary place to lead a life of austerity and union with God.

In order the better to flee the tumult of the world, after a short time they left Florence and betook themselves to Monte Senario, about nine miles northward of this city. There, for some years they continued their hidden life of penance, enjoying the ineffable sweetness promised to those who faithfully serve our divine Lord and His Holy Mother. On the evening of Good Friday, 1240, while meditating on the sorrowful mysteries which the Church commemorates on that day, the Queen of Heaven appeared to them again, bidding them found a Religious Order, the Order of her Servants, whose aim should be to spread devotion to her sorrows throughout the world. The object of this devotion was to recall the part which Mary had as the associate of Jesus in His work of redeeming mankind from the bondage of sin.

When the foundation of the Order had thus been laid by Mary herself, the Seven Holy Founders abandoned their beloved solitude of Monte Senario and undertook long journeys throughout Italy, France, Germany and Poland, everywhere preaching the sorrows and glories of Mary, converting sinners and pacifying cities. Heavenly signs accompanied the death of each of these Saints. And as one lore united them while they lived, so after their death one tomb received them all. In the course of centuries they were invoked together by the people, under the title of the Seven Holy Founders of the Order of the Servants of Mary, called also the Order of Servites. These holy men were all raised together to the honors of the altar by Pope Leo XIII, of holy memory, in the year 1888.

Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).

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