CALLED TO SERVE
The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order
I was on the rota to celebrate the Midday Mass yesterday. I had a choice of readings; The normal, day-to-day Lectionary contained two fine readings; the first from the Epistle of Saint James......
"Suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards?"
James doesn't mince his words, does he?
and then Our Lord Himself in Matthew's Gospel is also a bit direct to poor old Peter, who was desperately trying to say and do the right thing:
"........He rebuked Peter and said to him,
‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think
is not God’s way but man’s!’
But then there was one of those little square devices in the Lectionary
with an alternative recommendation that
the "SEVEN HOLY FOUNDERS OF THE SERVITE ORDER" be honoured.
Who were they?
I didn't know until yesterday - so here goes......
Guilds in the medieval world drew together
craftsmen of similar skills and professions to enable their members
to learn, promote, and protect their trade.
Guilds offered mutual assistance to their members that no individual could replicate.
On the 17th February we remember seven young men
who belonged to a merchant guild in Florence, Italy, in the Thirteenth Century.
These seven men were serious Christians.
They loved God, and in addition to their Guild membership
they placed themselves under the protection of Our Lady
as members of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin,
where their spiritual exercises were guided by a wise and educated priest,
Peter of Verona, who encouraged their devotion.
In 1240, these seven noblemen of Florence
mutually decided to withdraw from the city to a quiet place
for prayer and direct service of God.
After the members of the Confraternity experienced mystical visions of Our Lady, there was nothing left to do except abandon their worldly concerns,
set aside money for their families to live without their help,
and leave the busy city for a solitary life in the nearby mountains.
The Seven fasted, prayed, and lived lives of such extreme austerity
that a visiting cardinal admonished them to stop living like dogs.
Over time they adopted a rule based on that of Saint Augustine,
accepted new recruits and elected leaders,
and spread themselves throughout Italy and beyond.
They took the name of the Order of Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
also known as the Servants of Mary, or Servites.
Community members combined monastic life and active ministry;
In the monastery, they led a life of prayer, work and silence,
while in the active apostolate they engaged in parochial work, teaching, preaching, and other ministerial activities.
The time in which the seven Servite founders lived
is comparable to the situation in which we find ourselves today.
It is “the best of times and the worst of times,”
as Charles Dickens said in his opening words of
“A Tale of Two Cities”.
Never more than now in these best and worst of times
has there been a need for a prayer-motivated,
caring, pastoral ministry to be exercised in our own city,
in cities around the world,
in areas of rural deprivation;
in the places where Christ wants us to -
bring good news to the poor;
to heal the broken-hearted,
deliverance to captives,
liberty to those imprisoned by life’s struggles.(Luke chapter 4)
The Seven Holy Founders were especially devoted to the Seven Sorrows of Mary,
and the Servites were instrumental in the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows
becoming part of the Church’s calendar on September 15.
The Sorrows of Mary, the sword that pierced her heart,
the tears she shed when witnessing Our Lord’s passion and death,
motivated the Seven Holy Founders to promote devotion to Mary under this title.
Mary was strong and stood at the foot of the cross.
But she had a heavy heart that continually pondered what His suffering meant.
We unite in joy at Christ’s resurrection on Easter
and join with Mary’s sorrow just days before.
The Servite Friars are still around today, all over the world.
Today, Servites serve in nearly all the countries of North and South America;
in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and Australia.
Of themselves they speak: -
"We still, like our Seven Founders,
go where the needs of God's people demand that we go.
And we still seek the perfection of the Gospel way of living
under the protection of Mary, the Mother and Servant of the Lord.
Our Order is sent to extend its fraternity today
to all people divided by reason of age,
nationality, race, religion, wealth, and education.
We give ourselves in service to others
and so prolong the living presence of the Mother of Jesus
in the history of salvation."
Lord, we pray, lead us always in your love,
through the example of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order,
and bring to fulfillment the good work you began in them
and continue in their Order today, through Christ our Lord.
O Lord Jesus Christ Who,
in order to renew the memory
of the sorrows of Thy most holy Mother,
hast through the seven blessed fathers
enriched Thy Church with the new Order of Servites;
mercifully grant that we may be so united
in their sorrows as to share in their joys.
Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.
Grateful for information from
The Servants of Mary