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The name Servite comes from an age-old Order in the Roman Catholic Church. The Order of Friar Servants of Mary, as they are formally called, traces its roots to 13th century Italy. The Servites came into existence in 1233 A.D. when seven young merchants in Florence heard the Gospel calling them to do something radical with their lives. In response, these seven men turned away from the predominant values of the time, which included the quest for wealth, status, and power, and left their homes and put aside their material possessions in order to dedicate themselves to bringing the Gospel to life in the world.

      A hermitage was established on the summit of Monte Senario, a nearby mountain. St. Bonfilius and his companions (known as the Seven Holy Founders) established themselves as a fraternity and committed themselves to each other. Together they shared their work, living a life of poverty, penance, and prayer. Their lives were a statement to the world.

      Three qualities characterize these men and those qualities are the essence of the Servite spirit:

      They took the name “friar” because they chose to be brothers to each other… fraternity was their hallmark. The word “friar” comes from the Latin word “Frater,” which means brother. All Servites are brothers, even though some have been called to serve the Church as priests.

      They realize that they could not proclaim the Gospel without devoting themselves to the service of their sisters and brothers. Their first project, or apostolate, was to run a hospice for the poor.

      These men were inspired by the life and example of the Blessed Virgin Mary. By their Marian Spirit, they devoted themselves to her and imitated her example of openness, compassion, and hope.

      The Order of Friar Servants of Mary was approved as a religious Order by the Bishop of Florence between the years 1240 and 247 A.D. The Servites chose to live by the rule of St. Augustine and to also add their own expression of Marian devotion and dedication. In 1340 A.D., the Order of Friar Servants of Mary received definitive approval as a religious Order in the Church by the Holy See. The Servites arose in the same time period as the Franciscans and Dominicans, and share many characteristics with these Orders. These Orders are grouped together as the mendicant movement in the history of the Church.

      The Seven Holy Founders are all canonized saints. In addition to these original seven, there are numerous Servite saints, including Saint Philip Benizi, Saint Peregrine (patron of those who suffer from cancer, AIDS, and other incurable diseases), Saint Juliana Falconieri, and Saint Anthony Pucci.

      In 1870, the Friars came to the United States and began a foundation in Menasha, Wisconsin. In 1874, Chicago became the center of Servite activity in America. The Servite Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago was the home to the Sorrowful Mother Novena, which rose to national fame during WWII.

      So what are the Friars up to now? Servites can be found in the following ministries: parishes, education (teaching and administration), shrine ministry, foreign missions, home missions, personal counseling, marriage counseling, crisis counseling, retreat work, hospital chaplaincies, clerical work, administrative work, and manual labor. Currently there is a religious community of ten Servite Friars who minister at Servite High School. Communities of Servite Friars also staff the nearby parishes of St. Philip Benizi (Fullerton) and St. Juliana Falconieri (Fullerton). These Friars are members of the U.S.A. Province of Servites (also represented in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Denver, Portland (OR), St. Louis, and Santa Fe, and the Dioceses of Orange and Orlando).

      Today, the Servite Friars together with Servite religious sisters and cloistered nuns form an international community of over 4,800 members. The Order is represented throughout the major areas of Europe, Central and South America, and Australia. In North America, there are Servite provinces in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. In Rome, the Servites maintain a Pontifical Institute for graduate study called the Marianum. The faculty of this prominent school are specialists in Marian studies (i.e., issues related to the role of Mary in the Church). Some of them serve as theological consultants and advisors to the Holy See. In 1986, the Servite Marian Center was established at the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago. The center is dedicated to spreading the knowledge of Mary, the Mother of God. The center accomplishes this task through teaching, writing and preaching.

      The Order also has missionary ministries in Zululand, Swaziland, and Transvaal on the northern border of the Republic of South Africa. Growing foundations have been established in India (Madras), Mozambique, and the Philippines.

      The Order remains faithful to its ancient traditions. Fraternity, service, and Marian Spirit remain the mark of a true Servite. Around the globe, the brothers and sisters of the Order teach in schools and universities, minister in parish communities, serve as chaplains, work in hospitals, and do other works to build the Church.

Seven wealthy councilors in Florence, members of the laymen Laudesi (Praisers). They individually and collectively felt a call to a deeper religious life, and on the Feast of the Assumption, 1233, they decided to form a new society devoted to prayer and solitude. This was not an easy move - two were married and two were widowers, so several of them had dependants for whom to provide. However, they each made provision for their families, and with the approval of their bishop, they withdrew from the world 23 days later.

At first they lived just outside the gates of La Camarzia under obedience to the bishop of Florence. As word of their holiness spread, they attracted would-be followers, and withdrew to the hills around Monte Sennario where they built a church and hermitage. They lived in for seven years, spending their time in prayer and meditation, and turning away all potential followers. In 1240 Cardinal Castiglione visited; he praised their holiness and devotion, but warned them that their severe austerities was more life-denying and spiritual. Bishop Ardingo explained a vision he had had of a vine that blossomed on a cold March day. The cardinal, bishop and the seven men took this as a sign that they should "branch out", and allow others into their life.

On Good Friday, 13 April 1240, the hermits received a vision of Our Lady. She held in her hand the 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 Saint Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings.
They accepted the wisdom of Our Lady, 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 became known as the Servites, and were known for meditating on the sorrows of Mary; they fostered the devotion known as the Seven Sorrows of Mary, a counterpart to the older devotion known as the Seven Joys of Mary. Six of them were ordained and took new names, they took Saint Peter of Verona as their spiritual director, and they all went to work with new members. The congregation grew quickly, and soon had groups in Siena, Pistoia, Arezzo, Carfaggio, and Lucca. They built the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence in 1250, and their Order is still there today. The Servites were solemnly approved by Blessed Pope Benedict XI in 1304, and have since spread around the world.

The seven founders were:


Servants of Mary (Order of Servites)

This order was founded on the feast of the Assumption, 1233 when the Blessed Virgin appeared to seven noble Florentines, who had repaired to the church to follow the exercises of the Confraternity of the Laudesi, and bade them leave the world and live for God alone. On the following feast of her Nativity, 8 September, they retired to La Camarzia, just outside the walls of the city, and later on to Monte Senario, eleven miles from Florence. Here again they had a vision of the Blessed Virgin. In her hands she held a black habit; a multitude of angles surrounded her, some bearing the different instruments of the Passion, one holding the Rule of St. Augustine, whilst another offered with one hand a scroll, on which appeared the title of Servants of Mary surrounded by golden rays, and with the other a palm branch. She addressed to them the following words: "I have chosen you to be my first Servants, and under this name you are to till my Son's Vineyard. Here, too, is the habit which you are to wear; its dark colour will recall the pangs which I suffered on the day when I stood by the Cross of my only Son. Take also the Rule of St. Augustine, and may you, bearing the title of my Servants, obtain the palm of everlasting life." Among the holy men of the order was St. Philip Benizi, who was born on the day the Blessed Virgin first appreared to the Seven Founders (15 August), and afterwards became the great propagator of the order. The order developed rapidly not only in Italy but also in France and Germany, where the holy founders themselves spread devotion to the Sorrows of Mary. Their glorious son St. Philip continued the work and thus merited the title of Eight Founder of the Order. The distinctive spirit of the order is the sanctification of its members by meditation on the Passion of Jesus and the Sorrows of Mary, and spreading abroad this devotion.

The order consists of three branches. Concerning the First Order or Servite Fathers, see SERVITE ORDER. The Second Order (cloistered nuns) was probably founded by Blessed Helen and Blessed Rose shortly after the death of St. Philip in 1285. This branch has houses in Italy and Austria as well as one at Bognor, England. The Third Order of Mantellate was founded by St. Juliana Falconieri to whom St. Philip gave the habit in 1284. This branch occupies itself with active works after the example of its holy foundress. From Italy it spread into other countries of Europe. The Venerable Anna Juliana, Archduchess of Austria, founded several houses and became a Mantellate herself. In 1844 it was introduced into France, and was thence extended into England in 1850. The sisters were the first to wear the religious habit publicly in that country after the so-called Reformation. They are at present one of the leading religious orders for women in what was once "Mary's Dowry", having been active missionaries under Father Faber and the Oratorians for many years. In 1871 the English province sent sisters to American, but they were recalled in 1875. The superior general being very desirous to see the order established in the United States sent sisters a second time in 1893. They have now a novitiate at Cherokee, Iowa, and mission houses in other states. They devote themselves principally to the education of youth, managing academies and taking charge of parochial schools and workrooms. They also undertake works of mercy, such as the care of orphans, visiting the sick, and instructing converts, etc. Above all, in imitation of their holy foundress, St. Juliana, they do all in their power to instill into the hearts of those under their care a great love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. At the last general chapter held in London, 31 July, 1906, a vicaress general for America was appointed.


Order of Servites


The Order of Servites is the fifth mendicant order, the objects of which are the sanctification of its members, preaching the Gospel, and the propagation of devotion to the Mother of God, with special reference to her sorrows. In this article we shall consider: (1) the foundation and history of the order; (2) devotions and manner of life; (3) affiliated associations; (4) Servites of distinction.

(1) Foundation and History

To the city of Florence belongs the glory of giving to the Church the seven youths who formed the nucleus of the order: Buonfiglio dei Monaldi (Bonfilius), Giovanni di Buonagiunta (Bonajuncta), Bartolomeo degli Amidei (Amideus), Ricovero dei Lippi-Ugguccioni (Hugh), Benedetto dell' Antella (Manettus), Gherardino di Sostegno (Sosteneus), and Alessio de' Falconieri (Alexius); they belonged to seven patrician families of that city, and had early formed a confraternity of laymen, known as the Laudesi, or Praisers of Mary.

While engaged in the exercises of the confraternity on the feast of the Assumption, 1233, the Blessed Virgin appeared to them, advised them to withdraw from the world and devote themselves entirely to eternal things. They obeyed, and established themselves close to the convent of the Friars Minor at La Camarzia, a suburb of Florence. Desiring stricter seclusion than that offered at La Camarzia, they withdrew to Monte Senario, eleven miles north of Florence. Here the Blessed Virgin again appeared to them, conferred on them a black habit, instructed them to follow the Rule of St. Augustine and to found the order of her servants (15 April, 1240). The brethren elected a superior, took the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and admitted associates.

In 1243, Peter of Verona (St. Peter Martyr), Inquisitor-General of Italy, recommended the new foundation to the pope, but it was not until 13 March, 1249, that the first official approval of the order was obtained from Cardinal Raniero Capocci, papal legate in Tuscany. About this time St. Bonfilius obtained permission to found the first branch of the order at Cafaggio outside the walls of Florence. Two years later (2 Oct., 1251) Innocent IV appointed Cardinal Guglielmo Fieschi first protector of the order. The next pope, Alexander IV, favoured a plan for the amalgamation of all institutes following the Rule of St. Augustine. This was accomplished in March, 1256, and about the same time a Rescript was issued confirming the Order of the Servites as a separate body with power to elect a general. Four years later a general chapter was convened at which the order was divided into two provinces, Tuscany and Umbria, the former of which St. Manettus directed, while the latter was given into the care of St. Sostene. Within five years two new provinces were added, namely, Romagna and Lombardy. After St. Philip Benizi was elected general (5 June, 1267) the order, which had long been the object of unjust attack from jealous enemies, entered into the crisis of its existence. The Second Council of Lyons in 1274 put into execution the ordinance of the Fourth Lateran Council, forbidding the foundation of new religious orders, and absolutely suppressed all mendicant institutions not yet approved by the Holy See. The aggressors renewed their assaults, and in the year 1276 Innocent V in a letter to St. Philip declared the order suppressed. St. Philip proceeded to Rome, but before his arrival there Innocent V had died. His successor lived but five weeks. Finally John XXI, on the favourable opinion of three consistorial advocates, decided that the order should continue as before. The former dangers reappeared under Martin V (1281), and though other popes continued to favour the order, it was not definitively approved until Benedict IX issued the Bull, "Dum levamus" (11 Feb., 1304). Of the seven founders, St. Alexis alone lived to see their foundation raised to the dignity of an order. He died in 1310.

We must here make mention of St. Peregrine Laziosi (Latiosi), whose sanctity of life did much towards increasing the repute of the Servite Order in Italy. Born at Forli in 1265, the son of a Ghibelline leader, Peregrine, in his youth, bitterly hated the Church. He insulted and struck St. Philip Benizi, who, at the request of Martin V, had gone to preach peace to the Forlivese. Peregrine's generous nature was immediately aroused by the mildness with which St. Philip received the attack and he begged the saint's forgiveness. In 1283 he was received into the order, and so great was his humility it was only after much persuasion he consented to be ordained a priest. He founded a monastery in his native city, where he devoted all his energies to the restoration of peace. His humility and patience were so great that he was called by his people a second Job. He died in 1345. His body remains incorrupt to the present day. He was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726, and his feast is celebrated on 30 April.

One of the most remarkable features of the new foundation was its wonderful growth. Even in the thirteenth century there were houses of the order in Germany, France, and Spain. Early in the fourteenth century the order had more than one hundred convents including branch houses in Hungary, Bohemia, Austria, Poland, and Belgium; there were also missions in Crete and India. The disturbances during the Reformation caused the loss of many Servite convents in Germany, but in the South of France the order met with much success. The Convent of Santa Maria in Via (1563) was the second house of the order established in Rome; San Marcello had been founded in 1369. Early in the eighteenth century the order sustained losses and confiscations from which it has scarcely yet recovered. The flourishing Province of Narbonne was almost totally destroyed by the plague which swept Marseilles in 1720. In 1783 the Servites were expelled from Prague and in 1785 Joseph II desecrated the shrine of Maria Waldrast. Ten monasteries were suppressed in Spain in 1835. A new foundation was made at Brussels in 1891, and at Rome the College of St. Alexis was opened in 1895. At this period the order was introduced into England and America chiefly through the efforts of Fathers Bosio and Morini. The latter, having gone to London (1864) as director of the affiliated Sisters of Compassion, obtained charge of a parish from Archbishop Manning in 1867. His work prospered: besides St. Mary's Priory at London, convents were opened at Bognor (1882) and Begbroke (1886). In 1870 Fathers Morini, Ventura, Giribaldi, and Brother Joseph Camera, at the request of Rt. Rev. Bishop Melcher of Green Bay, took up a mission in America, at Neenah, Wisconsin. Father Morini founded at Chicago (1874) the monastery of Our Lady of Sorrows. A novitiate was opened at Granville, Wisconsin, in 1892. The American province, formally established in 1908, embraces convents in the dioceses of Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Superior, and Denver. In 1910 the order numbered 700 members in 62 monasteries, of which 36 were in Italy, 17 in Austria-Hungary, 4 in England, 4 in North America, 1 in Brussels.

(2) Devotions: Manner of Life

In common with all religious orders strictly so called, the Servites make solemn profession of the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The particular object of the order is to sanctify first its own members, and then all men through devotion to the Mother of God, especially in her desolation during the Passion of her Divine Son. The Servites give missions, have the care of souls, or teach in higher institutions of learning. The Rosary of the Seven Dolours is one of their devotions, as is also the Via Matris. The fasts of the order are Advent, Lent, and the vigils of certain feasts. All offices in the order are elective and continue for three years, except that of general and assistant- generals which are for six years. The canonized Servite saints are: St. Philip Benizi (feast 23 Aug.), St. Peregrine Latiosi (30 April), St. Juliana Falconieri (19 June), and the Seven Holy Founders (12 Feb.).

(3) Affiliated Associations

Connected with the first order of men are the cloistered nuns of the second order, which originated with converts of St. Philip Benizi. These sisters have convents in Spain, Italy, England, The Tyrol, and Germany. The Mantellate, a third order of women founded by St. Juliana (see, MARY, SERVANTS OF), have houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, and Canada. In the United States they are to be found in the dioceses of Sioux City and Belville. There is also a third order for seculars, as well as a confraternity of the Seven Dolours, branches of which may be erected in any church.

(4) Servites of Distinction

A few of the most distinguished members are here grouped under the heading of that particular subject to which they were especially devoted; the dates are those of their death. Ten members have been canonized and several beatified.

Sacred Scripture. Angelus Torsani (1562?); Felicianus Capitoni (1577), who wrote an explanation of all the passages misinterpreted by Luther; Jerome Quaini (1583); Angelus Montursius (1600), commentary in 5 vols.; James Tavanti (1607), whose "Ager Dominicus" comprises 25 vols.; Julius Anthony Roboredo (1728).

Theology. Laurence Optimus (1380), "Commentarium in Magistrum Sententiarum"; Ambrose Spiera (1454); Marian Salvini (1476); Jerome Amidei (1543); Laurence Mazzocchi (1560); Gherardus Baldi (1660), who was styled by his contemporaries "eminens inter theologos"; Amideus Chiroli (1700?), celebrated for his "Lumina fidei divinae"; Julius Arrighetti (1705); Callixtus Lodigerius (1710); Gerard Capassi (1737), who was by Benedict XIV called the most learned man of his day; Mark Struggl (1761); Caesar Sguanin (1769).

Canon Law. Paul Attavanti (1499), "Breviarium totius juris canonici"; Dominic Brancaccini (1689), "De jure doctoratus"; Paul Canciani (1795?), "Barbarorum leges antiquae"; Theodore Rupprecht, eighteenth-century jurist; Bonfilius Mura (1882), prefect of the Sapienza before 1870.

Philosophy and Mathematics. Urbanus Averroista, commentator of Averroes; Andrew Zaini (1423); Paul Albertini (1475), better known as Paolo Veneto; Philip Mucagatta (1511); John Baptist Drusiani (1656), the "Italian Archimedes"; Benedict Canali (1745); Raymond Adami (1792); Angelus Ventura (1738).

History and Hagiography. James Philip Landrofilo (1528); Octavian Bagatti (1566); Raphael Maffei (1577); Archangelus Giani (1623); Philip Ferrari (1626); Archangelus Garbi (1722); Placidus Bonfrizieri (1732); Joseph Damiani (1842); Austin M. Morini (1910).

Fine Arts. Alexander Mellino (1554), choirmaster at the Vatican; Elias Zoto, John Philip Dreyer (1772); Paul Bonfichi, who received a pension from Napoleon Bonaparte for his musical compositions; Ambrose of Racconigi, Cornelius Candidus, Jilis of Milan, Germanus Sardus, poets; Arsenius Mascagni and Gabriel Mattei, painters; Angelus Montursius (1563), architect and sculptor, among whose works are the Neptune of Messina, the arm of Laocoon in the Vatican, and the Angels on the Ponte Sant' Angelo.

Mon. ord. Serv. (Brussels, 1897); GIANI-GARBI, Annales ord. serv. (Lucca, 1725); POCCIANTI, Chronicon ord. serv. (Florence, 1557); SPORR, Lebensbilder aus den Serviten-Orden (Innsbruck, 1892); SOULIER, Storia dei sette santi fondatori (Rome, 1888); IDEM, Vie de S. Philippe Benizi (Paris, 1886); LEPICIER, Sainte Julienne Falconieri (Brussels, 1907); LEDOUX, Hist. des sept saints fondateurs (Paris, 1888); DOURCHE, Roses et marguerites (Brussels, 1905).

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