Seven Holy Founders of the Servites
February 17 is the memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites.
These seven men were born into noble families in 13th century Florence, which was torn by political strife and filled with heresy. The city was decadent and religion was nearly non-existent. Drawn together by friendship and devotion to the Blessed Virgin, they dedicated themselves to common prayer and works of charity. On the feast of the Assumption, as they were absorbed in prayer, they saw Our Lady in a vision, and were inspired by her to withdraw from the world into a solitary place and to live for God alone. Thus, they left their homes and businesses and formed a community outside the city walls, where they lived as hermits. Twenty-three days after they had received their call, they moved to a house called La Carmarzia. Because they received so many visitors from Florence, they decided to withdraw to the wild and deserted slopes of Monte Senario, where they built a simple church and hermitage.
On Friday, April 13, 1240, the hermits received another vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This time she held in her hand the black habit, and an angel held 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 Saint Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.”
They accepted the guidance of Our Lady, and in 1244, under the direction of St. Peter of Verona, O.P, wrote a Rule based on Saint Augustine and the Dominican Constitutions, adopted the black habit of an Augustinian monk, and lived as mendicant friars. The men founded the Servants of Mary, also known as the Order of Servites, which in 1304 received the approval of the Holy See. They are venerated on this day which is reported to be the day on which Saint Alexis Falconieri, one of the seven, died, in the year 1310.
All seven were beatified on December 1, 1717 by Pope Clement XI and canonized in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII.