Seven Holy Founders of the Servites: Missa “Justi decantaverunt”
There were seven concilors of Florence who founded the Servants of Mary or Servites in 1233. The best known were Saint Buonfiglio dei Monaldi and Saint Alessio de’ Falconieri, who served as a lay brother all his life.The other five were also from influential families in Florence and were all members of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through this association, they grew spiritually and longed for something more. Thus, under the direction and advice of their bishop, the majority became priests, forming the Servants of Mary or Servites.
Can you imagine seven prominent men of any large modern city banding together, leaving their homes and profession, and going into solitude for a life directly given to God? That is what happened in the cultured and prosperous city of Florence in the middle of the 13th century. At this time, the city was torn with political strife as well as by the heresy of the Cathari; morals were low and religion neglected.
On the feast of the Assumption in 1233, seven of the members of a Florentine Confraternity devoted to the Holy Mother of God were gathered in prayer under the presidency of Alessio Falconieri. The Blessed Virgin appeared to the young men and exhorted them to devote themselves to Her service, in retirement from the world. It was in 1240 that they decided to withdraw together from the city to a solitary place for prayer and the service of God. Their aim was to lead a life of penance and prayer, but they soon found themselves disturbed by increasing numbers of visitors.
They adopted the Rule of Saint Augustine, wore black cassocks and strove to emulate the mendicant friars like the Franciscans and Dominicans. They next retired to the deserted slopes of Monte Senario near Florence, where the Blessed Virgin appeared to them again. There the nucleus of a new Order was formed, called Servants of Mary, or Servites, in recognition of their special manner of venerating the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.
In 1244, under the direction of Saint Peter of Verona, O.P., this small group adopted a religious habit similar to the Dominican habit, choosing to live under the rule of Saint Augustine. The new Order took a form resembling more the mendicant friars than the older monastic Orders. One of the most remarkable features of the new foundation was its wonderful growth. Even in the fourteenth century, the Order had more than one hundred convents in several nations of Europe, as well as in India and on the Island of Crete. The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows is one of their regular devotions, as is also the Via Matris, or Way of the Cross of Mary.
Their Order was officially approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1259; canonically approved by Blessed Pope Benedict XI in 1304. There was also a contemplative order of Servite nuns founded by two penitents of Saint Philip Benezi and a Third Order of nuns dedicating to treating the poor and sick as well as educating children. This was founded by a relative of St. Alessio’s, Saint Juliana Falconieri in 1306. The Seven Servite Founders were canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, establishing their feast to be celebrated in Church Liturgy on February 12th.
INTROIT Wis 10:20-21
The just sang, O Lord, Your holy name and praised in unison your conquering hand – because wisdom opened the mouths of the dumb, and gave ready speech to infants. Ps 8:2 O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is Your name over all the earth! V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. The just sang, O Lord, Your holy name and praised in unison your conquering hand – because wisdom opened the mouths of the dumb, and gave ready speech to infants.
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 with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R.Amen.
EPISTLE Ecclus. 44. 1-15
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom. Let us now praise men or renown, and our fathers in their generation. The Lord hath wrought great glory through His magnificence from the beginning. Such as have borne rule in their dominions, men of great power and endued with their wisdom, showing forth in the prophets the dignity of prophets, and ruling over the present people, and by the strength of wisdom instructing the people in most holy words. Such as by their skill sought out musical tunes, and published canticles of the Scriptures. Rich men in virtues, lovers of beautifulness : living at peace in their houses. All these have gained glory in their generations, and were praised in their days. They that were born of them have left a name behind them, that their praises might be related. And there are some of whom there is no memorial ; who are perished, as if they had never been, and are born as if they had never been born, and their children with them. But these were men of mercy, whose godly deeds have not failed. Good things continue with their seed. Their posterity are a holy inheritance, and their seed hath stood in the covenants. And their children for their sakes remain for ever ; their seed and their glory shall not be forsaken. Their bodies are buried in peace, and their name liveth unto generation and generation. Let the people show forth their wisdom, and the Church declare their praise.
Isa 65:23 My elect shall not toil in vain, nor beget children for sudden destruction; for a race blessed by the Lord are they and their offspring. Sir 44:14 Their bodies are buried in peace, and their name lives to generation and generation. Ps 125:5-6 Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. V. Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown. V. They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.
GOSPEL Matthew 19. 27-29
At that time, Peter said to Jesus: ‘Behold we have left all things and have followed Thee: what therefore shall we have? And Jesus said to them: ‘Amen I say to you, that you, who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of His majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.’
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Isaiah 56:7
I will bring them to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar.
Graciously receive, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the sacrifice we offer up to Thee, and do Thou grant that, through the prayers of Thy Saints, being inflamed with love for the sorrowing Virgin, Mother of Thy Son, we may serve Thee with a free mind. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise::
COMMUNION ANTIPHON John 15:6
I have chosen you from the world that you should go and bring forth fruit, and your fruit should remain.
Quickened anew by the heavenly mysteries, we beseech Thee O Lord, that following the example of the saints whose feast we are keeping, we may steadfastly abide at the foot of the cross of Jesus with Mary His mother, and merit to partake in the fruits of His redemption. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.