Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order
The Church's 5th mendicant Order had its beginning in Florence, Italy in the middle of the 13th century when the city was torn with political strife as well as the Cathari heresy, which proclaimed that good and evil each had a separate creator. Morals were at their lowest ebb and religion had all but lost its relevance.
On the Feast of the Assumption in the year 1233, Our Blessed Mother appeared to the 7 members of a Florentine Confraternity named "Laudesi" (the "Prasisers" of Mary) when they were at prayer and bade them withdraw into solitude. Accordingly, these young noblemen of the city, 2 of whom were married and 2 others widowed, after having settled their personal affairs and made adequate provision for their dependents, established themselves several miles north of the city on the secluded Monte Senario. Here Mary appeared to them again and showed them the black habit she desired them to wear in memory of her sorrow and desolation at the foot of the Cross and instructed them to found the "Ordo Fratrum Servorum Sanctae Mariae" (Order of Friar Servants of St. Mar) under the rule of St. Augustine of Hippo. They carried out these directives under the guidance of St. Peter of Verona, O. P. devoting themselves to much prayer, penance and silence on the one hand and teaching, preaching and various ministerial activities on the other.
The new order grew with such astonishing rapidity that by the beginning of the 14th century the Servites numbered 10,000, housed in 100 monasteries and missions spread across every continent, including the sub-continent of India. A Second Order for cloistered nuns and a Third Order for active works of charity and education, were also founded towards the end of the 13th century, the latter by St. Juliana Falconieri.
Only one of the founders, viz., Alexis Falconieri, a lay brother, lived to see the foundation raised to the dignity of a religious order by Pope Benedict XI in 1304. He died on 17 February 1310. The exact date of death of each of the rest, i.e., Buonfiglio Monaldo (the first superior), Benedict dell' Antella, Bartholomew Amidei, Ricoverus Ugccione, Gerardino Sostegni and John Buonagiunta is uncertain. But in 1649, when the main altar of the chapel at Monte Senario was being re-modelled, the remains of seven bodies were discovered. Having been moved several times, these now lie enshrined in the Chapel of the 7 Holy Founders at Monte Senario. All the 7 were, however canonized as a group by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.
Reflection :"Each of our days in marked with the protection of Mary, who is exceedingly anxious to be our Mother, when we desire to be her children" (St. Vincent de Paul)