Seven Founders of the Servites
Benedict of Cagliari, OSB B (AC)
Died after 1112. Saint Benedict was a monk in Saint Saturninus Basilica monastery at Cagliari, Sardinia, and bishop of Dolia, Sardinia, from 1107 to 1112. In his old age he retired to the abbey, where he died (Benedictines).
Constabilis of Cava, OSB, Abbot (AC)
Born in Lucania, Italy, 1060; died 1124; canonized in 1893. Saint Constabilis was a monk under Saint Leo at La Cava Abbey near Naples, and in 1122, he was chosen as its fourth abbot. Constabilis built the town of Castelabbate, where he is now venerated as patron (Benedictines).
Donatus, Secundian, Romulus, & Comp. MM (RM)
Died 304. This group of 89 martyrs suffered under Diocletian at Porto Gruaro (Concordia), near Venice (Benedictines).
Evermod of Ratzeburg, O. Praem. B (AC)
Died 1178. Saint Evermod was a priest under Saint Norbert, who evangelized the Wends. He was eventually chosen abbot of Gottesgnaden, then abbot of Magdeburg, and finally bishop of Ratzeburg (Benedictines).
Faustinus and Companions MM (RM)
Date unknown. The Roman Martyrology records that 45 Christians were martyred on this day, probably at Rome (Benedictines).
Finan of Iona B (AC)
Died 661. An Irish monk of Iona, who succeeded Saint Aidan in the governance of the Northumbrian church. He also bore Aidan's spirit of zeal, erudition, and prudence. Finan opposed Saint Ronan's introduction of the Roman liturgical practices in place of the Celtic ones, yet agreed to Saint Wilfrid's going from Lindisfarne to Rome. Attended by Saint Cedd and other missionaries, he evangelized parts of southern England. He became a friend of King Oswy of Northumbria, and baptized King Penda of the Middle Angles and later King Saint Sigebert of the East Saxons, who had been converted to Christianity by King Oswy (Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).
Fintan of Clonenagh, Abbot (RM)
Born in Leinster; died 603. A disciple of Saint Columba (or according to Montague, Saint David), Fintan led the life of a hermit at Clonenagh in Leix. Soon numerous disciples, including Saint Comgal, attached themselves to him, and he became their abbot. Such was the austerity of the life led at Clonenagh that neighboring monasteries protested. Fintan himself was reputed to live on a diet of barley bread and clayey water; however, he established a less strict rule for some neighboring monks. One day some soldiers brought the severed heads of their enemies to the monastery. Fintan had these buried in the monks cemetery hoping that by the Judgment Day they would have benefitted from the prayers of generations of monks: "since the principal part of their bodies rest here, we hope they will find mercy." Fintan's feast is celebrated throughout Ireland (Benedictines, Farmer, Husenbeth, Montague).
Fortchern of Trim (AC)
(also known as Forkernus)
6th century. Saint Fortchern is said to have been converted to the faith by Saint Loman, whom he succeeded as bishop of Trim, Ireland, before becoming a hermit (Benedictines). In art, St. Fortchern pictured as a bishop among bell-founders of whom he is the patron (Roeder).
Blessed Francis Regis Clet, C.M. M (AC)
Born in Grenoble, France, 1748; died at Hankow, China, 1820; beatified in 1900. Blessed Francis joined the Lazarists and was sent to China in 1791. There he labored in the mission fields for 30 years in the face of many difficulties. At the age of 72, he was captured, tortured, and strangled for the faith (Benedictines).
Blessed Frowin of Bellevaux, OSB Cist. Abbot (PC)
Died 1165. Blessed Frowin was a Cistercian at Bellevaux, Savoy, and the abbot-founder of Salom in the diocese of Constanz. He was a champion of Saint Bernard when the latter was preaching his crusade (Benedictines).
Guevrock, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Gueroc, Kerric)
6th century. Saint Guevrock was a Briton who followed Saint Tadwal to Brittany and succeeded him as abbot of Loc-Kirec. He helped Saint Paul of León in the rule of the diocese (Benedictines).
Habet-Deus BM (AC)
Died c. 500. Bishop Habet-Deus governed the diocese of Luna in Tuscany, Italy--a town that is now in ruins. He was probably martyred by the Arian Vandals. Habet-Deus is venerated at Sarzana (Benedictines).
Loman of Trim B (AC)
(also known as Luman)
Died c. 450; he has a second feast on October 11. Unreliable legend has him the son of St. Patrick's sister Tigris. Loman was probably at least a disciple of Patrick. He accompanied Patrick to Ireland and was left to navigate their boat up the Boyne while Patrick went to Tara. On the way, he met Fortchern, son of the chieftain of Trim, his mother, a Christian, and his father Fedelmid, a pagan. In time, he converted Fedelmid and his whole household, including his successor Fortchern, to Christianity. Fedelmid gave Patrick land at Trim for a church, and Loman became bishop of Trim in Meath, Ireland. Some scholars believe that in reality Loman was a bishop of Trim in the 7th century and in no way related to Patrick (Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).
Blessed Luke Belludi, OFM (AC)
Born in 1200; died 1285; cultus confirmed in 1927. Blessed Luke received the Franciscan habit from Saint Francis himself at Padua, Italy, and became the intimate friend of Saint Antony of Padua, at whose death he assisted. On his own death, he was laid in the empty tomb from which the body of Saint Antony had been taken (Benedictines).
Polychronius BM (RM)
Died 250 (?). Saint Polychronius was a bishop and martyr at Babylon. The Roman Martyrology says that he was put to death by Decius, but that emperor never made an expedition against the Persians. As Saint Polychronius of December 6 had also a feast on February 17, it is suggested that this feast masked the translation of his relics, and there was only one person (Benedictines).
Seven Founders of the Order of Servites (RM)
13th century; canonized in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII.
In 1233 seven wealthy councilors of the city of Florence, who had previously joined the Laudesi (Praisers), gave up the pleasures of this world in order to devote themselves to God through particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their previous lives had been by no means lax or undisciplined, even though Florence was then a city filled with factions and immorality, and infected by the Cathar heresy (the belief that the body was evil and we are the souls of angels inserted by Satan into human bodies). Under the direction of James of Poggibonsi, who was the chaplain of the Laudesi and a man of great holiness and spiritual insight, they came to recognize the call to renunciation. On the Feast of the Assumption, 1233, the seven had a single inspiration or vision to withdraw from the world to form a new society within the Church devoted to prayer and solitude.
Of course, there were difficulties: Four of the men had been married, although two were widowers and the other three celibate. Each of them made provision for their dependents, and with the approval of their bishop withdrew from the world 23 days after the Assumption. At first they lived just outside the city gates at La Camarzia, humbly obeying the dictates of the bishop of Florence.
As their fame spread the seven moved further away to the wilder hills around Monte Sennario, where they built a church and a hermitage. For seven years they lived there, eating little, fasting and praying and allowing no new recruits to their company. But in 1240 Bishop Ardingo of Florence and Cardinal Castiglione visited them after hearing about the sanctity of the seven. The cardinal was suitably impressed but had one criticism, "You treat yourselves in a manner bordering on barbarity: and you seem more desirous of dying to time than of living for eternity. Take heed: the enemy of souls often hides himself under the appearance of an angel of light. . . . Hearken to the counsels of your superiors."
Bishop Ardingo went on to explain a vision that they had had of a vine that blossomed with green leaves and fruit in the middle of a cold March day. He told them that this was God's way of leading them to branch out into the world. The prelates insisted that the seven must welcome others who wished to follow so rigorous a life, and gave them rules for their order based on Saint Augustine and the Dominican Constitutions. They were to adopt the black habit of Augustinian monks and to live as mendicant friars.
As always, the hermits prayed for light, and again Our Lady appeared to them. On Good Friday, April 13, 1240, their mission was further defined in what they believed to be a vision of the Blessed Virgin, who they understood to say, "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." She held in her hand the black habit, while an angel bore a scroll inscribed with the title "Servants of Mary."
From that time they became known as Servites (or 'the Servants of Mary') because they meditated especially on the sorrows in the life of the mother of God. They were clothed in the habit by their bishop, took new names in religion, and all except Saint Alexis, who in his humility begged to be excused, were ordained as priests. So many joined the Servites that new groups were set up in neighboring Tuscan cities, such as Siena, Pistoia, Arezzo, Carfaggio, and Lucca. In 1250, to commemorate the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, the seven founders built the superb church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence, which is still served by their order.
The Servites were recognized in 1259 by the papal legate Raniero Cardinal Capocci and solemnly approved by Blessed Benedict XI in 1304. It has since spread into many parts of the world and continues to attract men and women, devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Many of their houses are dedicated to the education of children and the care of the poor and sick. The Servites fostered the devotion known as the Seven Sorrows of Mary, a development of the late medieval devotion to Our Lady of Pity, which offers a counterpart to the older one of the Seven Joys of Mary.
Of the seven founders, four became priors-general, two founded monasteries in France and Germany, and Alexis, who outlived the others, remained a lay brother his entire life. Short biographies of the seven founders are given for today. Note that some accounts give other names to the founders.
Alexis (Alessio) Falconieri (Born c. 1200; died at Monte Sennario on February 17, 1310). Son of Bernard Falconieri, a wealthy Florentine merchant and a Guelph, joined the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin in Florence about 1225. They were all ordained except Alexis, who felt he was not worthy enough to be a priest and devoted himself to the material needs of the community and helped build the Servite church at Cafaggio. He was the only one of the seven still alive when the order was approved by Pope Benedict XI.
Bartholomew (Bartholomes, Amadeus) degli Amidei. Amadeus governed the important convent of Carfaggio, but returned to Monte Sennario to die.
Benedict (Manettus, Manetius, Manetto) dell'Antella (Died August 20, 1268.) In 1246, he attended the Council of Lyons. When the order was divided into two provinces in 1260, Manettus governed Tuscany. He later introduced the order into France at the invitation of King Saint Louis. When Manettus became the fourth prior general, he sent missionaries to Asia. He retired in deference to Saint Philip Benizi, on whose breast he died.
Buonfiglio (Bonfilio) Monaldi (Monaldo) (Died January 1, 1261.) Bonfilio, the eldest of the seven, was the first superior of the Servites, serving until 1256
Gherardino (Gerardino, Sostenes) Sostegni (Sostegno). While Manettus governed the Tuscan province after 1260, Sostenes ruled that of Umbria. He later carried the order into Germany.
John Buonagiunta (Bonaiuncta). The youngest of the seven, Buonagiunta was elected in 1256 as the second prior general of the Servites. Soon after his election he died in the chapel while listening to the Gospel account of the Passion.
Ricovero (Hugh) dei Lippi-Ugoccioni (Uguccione) (Died at Monte Sennario, Italy, May 3, 1282). Hugh accompanied Saint Philip Benizi to France and Germany and was vicar-general of the order in the latter for eight years. Hugh and Sosthenes were recalled from foreign lands (France and Germany) in 1276, and died of illness on the same night (Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Walsh).
I found the following unattributed prayer for their intercession:
"Servants of Mary, bless all laypeople on their spiritual journey. Help us look to Mary for examples of faith, service, and humility. And help us to remember that God calls us to love him in his children and our neighbors. Remind us that it is more important to live for eternity than to die to time. Amen."
Silvin of Auchy, OSB B (RM)
(also known as Silvinus)
Born at Toulouse (?), France; died February 15, c. 718-720. Silvinus, a courtier of Childeric II and Theodoric III, gave up his worldly life and became a penitential pilgrim to Jerusalem and other holy sites. In Rome, he was ordained, then consecrated regional bishop and evangelized in the area around Thérouanne and Toulouse. He was indefatigable in preaching Christian truths and essential obligations, and taught the pagans to despise and renounce the pleasures of this life, by appearing on all occasions a strong lesson of self-denial and mortification. Thus, instructing them both by words and actions, he gathered a large harvest in a wild and uncultivated field. After some 40 years of missionary activity, which included the ransoming of many slaves, he retired to the Benedictine abbey of Auchy-les-Moines, where he died worn out by evangelizing.
He is commemorated in Usuard, the Belgic, and Roman martyrologies, on February 17, the day of his burial, and at Auchy on February 15. Most of his relics reside now in Saint-Bertin's Church at Saint- Omer, to which they were translated in 951, for fear of the Normans. His original vita, which was ascribed to Antenor, a disciple of the saint, is lost; the one that remains was compiled in the ninth century (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Theodulus and Julian of Caesarea MM (RM)
Died 308. Theodulus was an old man of the household of Firmilian, governor of Palestine, by whom he was crucified in Caesarea, Palestine. Theodulus's personal merit gained him the love of all who knew him, and the governor had a particular esteem for him. Eusebius records that this holy man had seen the invincible courage and patience of the five Egyptian martyrs at Caesarea (Elias, Jeremy, and companions), and, going to the prisons, made use of their example to encourage the other confessors, and prepare them for similar battles. Firmilian, vexed at the conduct of his old favorite servant, sent for him, reproached him strongly with ingratitude, and, without hearing his defense, condemned him to be crucified. Theodulus received with joy the sentence that would speedily unite him to his Savior.
Julian was a Cappadocian catechumen, highly esteemed by the faithful for his great virtues, who had just recently arrived in Caesarea. Whereupon hearing of the conflicts of the martyrs, he ran to the place, and finding the execution over, expressed his veneration for them, by kissing and embracing the bodies which had been animated by those heroic and happy souls. The guards apprehended him, and carried him to the governor, who, finding him as inflexible as the rest, would not lose his time in useless interrogatories, but immediately ordered him to be burnt. Julian, now master of all he wished for, gave God thanks for the honor done him by this sentence, and begged he would be pleased to accept of his life as a voluntary sacrifice. The courage and cheerfulness which he maintained to his last moment, filled his executioners with surprise and confusion (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Blessed William Richardson M (AC)
Born in Wales near Sheffield; died at Tyburn, England, in 1603; beatified in 1929. William Richardson, also known as William Anderson, was educated for the priesthood at Valladolid and Seville, where he was ordained in 1594. He was martyred for his priesthood (Benedictines).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.