Today Christians Celebrate the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order

Seven Founders...

Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order
Image: Art Institute of Chicago

(EWTN) Between years 1225 and 1227 seven young Florentines joined the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin–popularly known as the ‘Laudesi’ at a time when the popular City of Italy Florence, was being ripped by political factions, distracted by the heresy of the Cathari and a relaxation  of morals even where devotional practices were maintained.

These seven young noblemen of Florence drawn together by friendship and devotion to the Blessed Virgin, gave themselves to common works of charity according to the Friar Servants of Mary and led them to leave their homes and their businesses to form a community outside the city walls.

Before long, finding themselves so much disturbed by the constant visitors of Florence, they decided to withdraw to the deserted slopes of Monte Senario, where the constructed a simple Church, where they followed a life of prayerful seclusion.

As others came to join them, they initially refused to accept new recruits until they were visited one day by the Bishop Ardingo and Cardinal Castiglione, who had heard about their sanctity and was greatly edified but made one adverse criticism:

“You treat yourselves in a manner boarding on barbarity and you seem more desirous of dying to time than living for eternity. Take heed, the enemy of souls often hides himself under the appearance of the angel of light…Harken to the counsels of your superiors.”

The Solitaries gave themselves up to the prayer of light and had a vision of Our Lady, who bore in her hand a black habit while an angel held a scroll inscribed with a title: ‘Servants of Mary’ telling them, she had chosen them to be her servants, wishing them to wear the black habit and to follow the Rule of St. Augustine–From that date, the 13 of April, 1240 they were known as the ‘Servants of Mary’ or Servites.

Seven Holy FoundersThe Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order –Image: Da Mihi Animas

Clothed by the Bishop, Buonfigilo being elected their Superior and according to custom, they selected names by which they should forward be known, becoming Brothers Bonfilius, Alexis, Amadeus, Hugh, Sostenes, Manettus and Buonagiunta–By the wish of the Bishop, all except St. Alexis who in his humility begged to be excused, prepared to receive Holy Orders and in due time they were professed and ordained Priests.

The new order which took a form more like that of a Mendicant Friars than that of the monastic orders, increased amazingly and it soon became necessary to construct new houses:

Siena, Pistoia and Arezzo were the first places chosen and subsequently the houses at Carfaggio, the Convent and the Church of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence and the Convent at Lucca were established.

Meanwhile, although the ‘Servants of Mary’ had the approval of their immediate superiors, they had not been recognized by the Holy See, it was only in 1259 that the Order was practically recognized by Alexander IV but not until 1304, that it received the explicit and formal approbation of Pope Benedict XI — Saint Bonfilius had remained as Prior General until 1256 when he asked to be relieved due to his advancing years, he passed away on New Years night 1261

Saint Buonagiunta the youngest of the seven ‘Servants of Mary’ became the second Prior General but not long after his election, he breathed his last in chapel when the ‘Gospel of the Passion’ was being read. Saint Amadeus who had taken charge of the important convent of Carfaggio, returned to Monte Senario to end his days–Saint Manettus, became the fourth Prior General, sending missionaries to Asia, he subsequently retired to make way for Saint Philip Benzi upon whose breast he died.

Saint’s Hugh and Sostenes were abroad–Sostenes in Paris and Hugh had found convents in Germany, they were recalled in 1276 and being attacked by illness, they passed away, side-by-side the same night. Saint Alexis outlived them all and was the only one who survived to see the Order of the ‘Servants of Mary’ fully and finally recognized–he is reported to have passed away at the age of 110.

All seven were Beatified by Pope Clement XI on the 01 December 1717 and Canonized in 1887 by Pope Leo XII

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Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of St. Gilbert of Sempringham

Saint Gilbert

Saint Gilbert of Sempringham Sculpture
at Essen Belgium –Image:

(Franciscan Media) Gilbert was born in Sempringham, a Hamlet in the South Kesteven District of Lincolnshire England, into a wealthy family but he followed a path quite different than expected of him as the Son of a wealthy Roman Knight.

Gilbert sent to France for higher education decided to pursue seminary studies. When he returned to England not yet ordained a Priest–he inherited several estates from his father Jocelin however, Gilbert decided to avoid the easy life he may have had, instead living a simple life at the Parish, sharing as much as possible with the poor.

Following Gilbert’s ordination into the priesthood, he served as a Parish Priest in Sempringham. Among the congregation were seven young Women who had expressed to him their desire to l9ive a religious life. In response, Fr. Gilbert had a house built for them adjacent to the Church, there they live a austere life but one which attracted even more members–eventually, Lay Sisters & Brothers were added to work the land. A religious order was formed out of their small community known as the Gilbertine Order in 1131 the only religious order founded during the Middle Ages continued to thrive but came to an end when King Henry VIII suppressed all Catholic monasteries.

Gilbertine OrderSite of ‘The Gilbertine Order’ –Image Courtesy: 365 Rosaries

According to EWTN Gilbert departed to our Lord on the 03 February, 1190 at 106 yrs of age and he was Canonized by Pope Innocent III in 1202

Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of St. Claude de la Colombiere

St Claude de la Colombiere

Saint Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682)
Holy Card:

(EWTN) Born in France Lyons, Claude de la Colombiere during his youthful days studied philosophy, writing and public speaking–It was during this period according to the Vatican that Claude first sensed his vocation to a religious life in the Society of Jesus–By the age of 17, he entered the ‘Jesuit Novitiate’ at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to College (also in Avignon) where he pronounced his first vows, competing his studies in philosophy, following which he taught grammar and the humanities for five years.

In 1666 Claude went to the College of Clermont in Paris to study theology, he was assigned by his Superiors the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Minister of Finance for King Louis XIV

With his theological studies completed and ordained a Jesuit Priest in 1675 he was appointed Superior at Paray-Le-Monial in France where the Convent of St. Margaret Mary was located, here Fr. Claude became the spiritual director, encouraging her in the spread of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Fr. Claude became known for his remarkable gift of judgment together with his solid ministry and was sent to England to be a Court Preacher to the Duchess of York, taking up residence in Saint James Palace in London, his radiant personality and talents were noted by everyone.

The intense pace of Fr. Claude’s work and poor climate combined to undermine his health and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear.

When the alleged ‘Popish Plot’ of 1678 occurred, Fr. Claude was accused of complicity and taken to the severe King’s Bench Prison, where he remained for 3 weeks in very poor condition, until he was expelled from England by royal decree returning to France.

The events in England further weakened Fr. Claude, during the Summer of 1681 in a very weakened condition, he returned to spending Paray-Le-Monial, where he spent his last days.

St Claude de la Colombiere QuoteSaint Claude de la Colombiere –Image Courtesy: Pinterest

 On the 15 February, 1682 during the First Sunday of Lent, Fr. Claude passed away–In June, 1929 Pope Pius XI Beatified Claude de la Colombiere, subsequently being Canonized on the 31 May, 1992 by Pope Saint John Paul II

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Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Patron Saints of Europe

Saints Cyril & MethodiusSaint’s Cyril & Methodius –Image: St’s Cyril and Methodius Parish

(EWTN) These brothers the Apostle’s of Slovakia were born in Thessalonica in 826 and 827 respectively.

After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a Monk shortly before his death) refused the Governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slovakia speaking population. According to Franciscan Media Cyril withdrew to a Monastery where his brother Methodius became a Monk after some years in the government post.

A decisive change in their lives occurred when the ‘Duke of Moravia’ (of present day the Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and Ecclesiastical autonomy — Cyril and Methodius, undertook the missionary task.

Cyril’s first undertaking was to invent an alphabet (still used in some Eastern Liturgies) his assistants probably formed the ‘Cyrillic’ alphabet from Greek capital letters–together they translated the Gospels, the Psalter the Liturgical books together with the Letters of Saint Paul (Romans, 1st & 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus and Philemon) into Slovakian language.

Cyril’s and Methodius free use of the common language spoken among the people they worked, led to opposition from the German Clergy, the Bishop refused to consecrate Slavic Priests and Bishops, Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome.

On Cyril’s and Methodius visit to Rome, they had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril long  working through his disabilities, died in Rome on the 14 February, 869 just 50 days subsequent to taking the monastic habit.

Methodius continued his missionary work for 16 more years as Papal Legate for the Slovakian people, Consecrated a Bishop.

Legend has it according to EWTN that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the entire Holy Scriptures into the Slovakian language in 8 months. With his health worn out, Methodius passed away on the 06 April, 885 — In 1980 Pope Saint John Paul II declared them Co-Patrons of Europe.

On the 17 June, 2009 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI addressing Saint’s Cyril and Methodius said, they were classic examples of what today is meant by the term “inculturation” every people must integrate the message revealed into its own culture and express its saving truth in its own language.

Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of St. Giles Mary of Saint Joseph

Saint Giles

Saint Giles Mary of St. Joseph
All Saints & Martyrs

(Franciscan Media) In the same year that a power hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his Army into Russia, Brother (Francesco) Giles Mary of St. Joseph, ended a life of humble service to the Franciscan community and to the citizens of Italy Naples.

Francesco was born in Italy Taranto to very poor parents and as a child according to All Saints & Martyrs (Francesco) Giles Mary had learned rope making and was very good at his trade–his father’s death when he was 18 necessitated him to care for his family.

After securing their future, Brother (Francesco) Giles Mary, entered the ‘Friars Minor at Galastone’ in 1754 and for 53 years, he served in various roles at St. Paschal Hospice in Naples.

“Love God, Love God” was Brother Giles Mary characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the Friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor–all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone he met to repent. The charity which Brother Giles Mary reflected on the streets of Naples, was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the Friars.

The people that Brother Giles Mary met during his rounds earned his the nickname: ‘Consoler of Naples’ — Following his life of faithfulness to God, he was declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope Pius IX in 1888 and Canonized on the 02 June, 1996 by Pope Saint John Paul II

Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of Saint Apollonia, Martyr for Jesus Christ

Saint Apollonia

(Franciscan Media) The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of Emperor Philip–the first victim of the pagan mob who refused to worship their pagan idols was an old man named Mertrius who was tortured and subsequently stoned to death, the second person who refused to bow down to their idols was a Christian Woman named Quinta, her words infuriated the mob, she was scourged and then stoned to death.

While many of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all of their possessions, Apollonia was seized by the mob, that beat her, knocking her teeth out, subsequently lighting a large fire, the mob threatened to throw Apollonia in if she refused to curse God, she begged them to wait a moment, pretending to be considering their demands, instead she threw herself into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.

There have been many Churches and alters dedicated to Apollonia, the Patroness of Dentists and people have sought her intercession that have suffered toothaches and dental issues–Saint Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit–Apollonia attained glory in her later years, standing firm before her persecutors even as other Christians fled the city.

Related: Saint Apollonia –Children’s Rosary

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes
Image: Catholic Tradition

(Franciscan Media) On the 08 December, 1854 Pope Pius IX proclaimed the precept of the ‘Immaculate Conception’ in the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus a little more than three years later on the 11 February, 1858 the ‘Blessed Virgin’ to a poor, sickly 14 yr old Bernadette Soubiroux writes EWTN there were eighteen in all, the last occurring on the 16 July of the same year–Bernadette, often fell into joy.

Bernadette’s family Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm, while she knew the  prayers of: Our Father; Hail Mary;  the Creed and she also the Miraculous Medals:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to you. Amen

The mysterious visions that Bernadette saw in the hallow of the rock Massabielle, was that of a young and beautiful lady: “Lovelier than I have ever seen,” said Bernadette but the young lady was the only one who seen the vision, although sometimes, many stood with her. Now and then the image spoke to the Seer that was also the only one to hear her voice.

During interviews Bernadette gave an account of what she saw, “It was something white in the shape of a girl, she used the word “aquero” (this thing) it was ‘a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm,’ her white robe was encircled by a blue girdle, she worse a white veil, there was a yellow rose on each foot and a rosary was in her hand.

Bernadette was also impressed by the fact that the Lady she saw, did not use the informal form of address (tu) but the polite form (vous) the humble virgin appeared to a humble young girl and treated her with dignity.

Though that humble young lady Bernadette, the Virgin Mary revitalized the faith to millions. People began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world.

In 1862 the Bishop of the Diocese  declared the faithful “justified in believing the reality of the apparition.” A Basilica was constructed upon the rock of Massabielle by Fr. Peyramale, the parish priest.

In 1873 the great ‘national’ French pilgrimages were inaugurated. Three years later, the Basilica was consecrated and the statue solemnly crowned. In 1883 the foundation stone of another Church was laid, as the first was no longer large enough, it was constructed at the foot of the Basilica and was consecrated in 1901 and called the ‘Church of the Rosary’ — Pope Leo XIII authorized a special office and a Mass, in commemoration of the apparition and in 1907 Pope Pius X extended the observance of this feast to the entire Church.

Related: Novena To: Our Lady of Lourdes -EWTN

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Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Scholastica, Patron Saint of Epileptic Children & Nuns

Saint ScholasticaSaint Scholastica (480-542) Image Courtesy: Joy Filled Family

 (Franciscan Media) Twins will many times share the same interests and ideas, therefore its no surprise that Scholastica and her twin brother Saint Benedict established religious communities about five miles of one another.

Scholastica consecrated herself to God from her earliest youth writes EWTN she and her twin brother were brought up together, until he left Central Italy for Rome to continue his studies.

Once a year Scholastica visited her brother, as she wasn’t allowed in the Monastery, he would go out with some of his friends to meet her at some small distance in a farmhouse. Benedict and his sister Scholastica would spend these visits in the praises of God and with sharing with one another on matters of their Christian faith. 

When Scholastica’s bother was sent to ‘Mount Cassino’ she chose her retreat at Plombariola where she founded and governed a Nunnery–Saint Bertharius who was a Benedictine Abbot of Cassino some 300 yrs after says that Scholastica was instructed in virtue.

According to the ‘Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great’ (Chapter 33) the twins, spent their final day together. Scholastica sensed her death was close at hand and she begged her brother to stay with her until the next day. Benedict “By no persuasion would agree to that, saying that he may not be any means stay all night outside the Abbey.”

Three days later Benedict was praying in his Monastery (Chapter 34) and saw the soul of his dear sister Scholastica rising towards heaven in the form of a white dove.

“Rejoicing much to see her (Scholastica) great glory, with hymns and praise, he gave thanks to Almighty God and imparted the news of her death to the Monks”

Benedict sent them presently to bring her body to his Abbey to have her buried in that grave which he had provided for himself. By this means it fell out that, as their souls were always one in God while they lived, so their bodies continued together after their death.

Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Jerome Emiliani, Patron Saint of Orphans & Abandoned Children

Saint Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537) Image Courtesy: Catholic Online

(Vatican) The life of Jerome Emiliani, a layman from Italy Venice, was at it were ‘refounded’ on the night of the 27th September, 1511 when after making a sincere vow to ‘Our Lady of Treviso’ to change his behavior, through the intercession of the ‘Mother of God’ he found himself freed from the chains of prison, which he later presented at the alter of the Virgin Mary.

A careless and irreligious soldier in his earlier days in Venice, writes Franciscan Media Jerome had been captured in a skirmish at an outpost town and chained in a dungeon. While in prison, Jerome had lots of time to think and reflect on his past and he gradually learned to pray. When he was finally freed of his chains, Jerome returned to Venice, where he took charge of the education of his nephews and began studying for the priesthood.

In the years following Jerome’s ordination, events again called him to a decision and a new lifestyle.

Plague and famine swept through Northern Italy and Fr.Jerome began caring for the sick and feeding the hungry at his own expense. While serving those less fortunate, he soon resolved to devote himself together with his possessions to others–particularly, abandoned and unwanted children.

Fr. Jerome founded three Orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes and a hospital. Around 1532, Jerome and two other Priests, established a congregation the ‘Clerks Regular of Somasca’ (present day) Somascan Fathers dedicated to care for Orphans and the education of youth.

In February 1537 Fr.Jerome fell a martyr to his zeal writes EWTN contracting a disease at Bergamo and passed away at Somascha — Beatified by Pope Benedict XIV in 1747 Jerome was Canonized by Pope Clement XIII in 1767

In 1928 Pope Pius XI named Saint Jerome Emiliani, Patron of Orphans and Abandoned Children.

Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita

Saint Josephine BakhitaSaint Josephine Bakhita (1868-1947) Image: Cassie Pease Designs

(EWTN) When Josephine Bakhita passed away, thousands of Italians passed by her casket to pay respects to a simple Woman who had achieved great renown for her kindness–To this day, the people of Italy Schio honor now Saint Josephine, a former African slave with the title: ‘Nostra Madre Moretta’ which means Our Black Mother.

Born in Sudan, Olgossa in the Darfur region, according to Franciscan Media Josephine was kidnapped at the age of 7, sold into slavery and given the name ‘Bakhita’ which means ‘Fortune’ she was resold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, the Italian Counsel in Sudan Khartoum.

Two years later Callisto Legnani took Bakhita to Italy and gave her to a friend Augusto Michieli–Bakhita became a Nanny to ‘Mimmna Michieli’ who she accompanied to the ‘Venice Institute of the Catechumens’ run by the ‘Canosian Sisters’ — While Mimmina was in school, Bakhita felt drawn to the Catholic Church, she was later baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine.

When the Michieli’s returned from Africa and wanted to take Mimmna and Josephine back with them, Josephine refused to go. During a subsequent Court case the ‘Canossian Sisters’ and the Patriarch of Venice, intervened on Josephine’s behalf–The Judge concluded that since Slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free to do what she wanted and go where she pleased since 1885

Josephine entered the ‘Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa’ in 1893 and made her profession 3 yrs later. In 1902, Josephine was transferred to Italy, Schio, where she assisted her religious community through Cooking, Sewing, Embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. Josephine soon became well loved by children attending the Sisters school and the local citizens–she once said:

  • “Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him.
    What a great grace it is to know God.”

Josephine was Beatified on 17 May, 1992 and Canonized on the 01 October, 2000

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