In the heart of the 13th century, Florence, Italy, emerged a remarkable story of devotion and spiritual calling that led to the foundation of the Servite Order. Seven Florentine men, united by their profound reverence for Mary, the Mother of God, and their active participation in a confraternity dedicated to her, were to become the pillars of a new spiritual movement.

The origins of the Servite Order are steeped in divine inspiration. On the feast of the Assumption, in a moment of deep contemplation, these seven men experienced a vision of the Blessed Mother. Mary appeared to them, urging them to forsake worldly life and dedicate themselves to solitary communion with God. Heeding this celestial summons, they initially embraced a hermitic lifestyle.

After years of seclusion, their spiritual journey took a decisive turn. Seeking a formal rule to guide their communal life, they approached their bishop. Following his counsel to seek Mary’s direction, they were graced with another vision. This time, Mary presented them with a black habit, accompanied by an angel who carried a scroll inscribed with “Servants of Mary.” Mary expressed her desire for them to adopt this habit and serve under her name, marking the beginning of their life under the rule of St. Augustine in 1240.

The brotherhood of Bonfilius, Amadeus, Hugh, Sostenes, Manettus, Buonagiunta, and Alexis—six of whom were ordained priests while Alexis, in a display of humility, chose not to seek ordination—embodied a communal dedication to spiritual growth and service to God. Their fellowship attracted many followers, giving rise to the Servants of Mary, or Servites, a religious order that received papal approval in 1259.

The legacy of these seven holy founders, canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, continues to inspire through their story of faith, vision, and dedication to a life of service under the guidance of Mary, the Mother of God.

Photo credit: Lawrence OP via Flickr
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