Ordo Servorum Beatae Mariae Virginis
|Formation||15 August 1233|
|Type||Mendicant order (Institute of Consecrated Life)|
Marian devotional society
|Headquarters||Santissima Annunziata Basilica, Florence, Italy|
The Servite Order (Ordo Servorum Beatae Mariae Virginis, Order of Servants of Mary) is one of the five original Catholic mendicant orders. It includes several branches of friars (priests and brothers), contemplative nuns, a congregation of active religious sisters, and lay groups. The Order's objectives are the sanctification of its members, the preaching of the Gospel, and the propagation of devotion to the Mother of God, with special reference to her sorrows. The members of the Order use O.S.M. as their post-nominal letters. The members are known in English and some other languages as Servites or (in some languages other than English) Servants of Mary. The Servites friars lead a community life in the tradition of the mendicant orders.
The Order was founded in 1233 CE by "the seven holy founders", each a member of a patrician family of Florence, Italy. These cloth merchants left their city, families, and professions and withdrew to Monte Senario, a mountain outside the city of Florence, for a life of poverty and penance. The seven were: Bonfilius of Florence, born Bonfilius Monaldi (Buonfiglio dei Monaldi); Alexis of Florence, born Alexis Falconieri (Italian: Alessio Falconieri) (1200 - 17 February 1310); Manettus of Florence, born Benedict dell'Antella (Benedetto dell' Antella); Amideus of Florence, born Bartholemew Amidei (died 1266) (also known as Bartolomeo degli Amidei); Hugh of Florence, born Ricovero Uguccioni (Hugh dei Lippi Uggucioni (Ricovero dei Lippi-Ugguccioni)); Sostene of Florence, born Gerardino Sostegni (Gherardino di Sostegno); and Buonagiunta of Florence, born John Manetti (Giovanni di Buonagiunta (Bonajuncta)).. They were canonized by Pope Leo XIII on 15 January 1888.
The members of the Order dedicated themselves to Mary under her title of Mother of Sorrows (Italian: Madonna Addolorata). Dedicating their devotion to the mother of Jesus, they adopted Mary's virtues of hospitality and compassion as the Order's hallmarks. The distinctive spirit of the Order is the sanctification of its members by meditation on the Passion of Jesus and the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, and spreading abroad this devotion.
The Bishop of Florence, Ardengo Trotti (Ardengo Dei Foraboschi), approved the group as a religious Order sometime between 1240 and 1247. The Servites decided to live by the Rule of St. Augustine, and added to the Rule further guidelines that were the expression of their own Marian devotion and dedication. By 1250 a number of Servites had been ordained to the priesthood, thus creating an Order with priests as well as brothers.
Pope Alexander IV, favored a plan for the amalgamation of all Orders following the Rule of St. Augustine. This was accomplished in March 1256, but 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 being governed by St. Manettus and the latter by St. Sostene. Within five years two new provinces were added, that of Romagna and that of Lombardy.
St. Philip Benizi was elected general on 5 June 1267, and afterwards became the great propagator of the order. 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 suppressed all mendicant institutions not yet approved by the Holy See. In the year 1276 Pope Innocent V in a letter to St. Philip declared the Order suppressed. St. Philip set off for Rome to appeal the decision, but before his arrival there Innocent V had died. His successor lived only five weeks. Finally Pope John XXI, decided that the Servite Order should continue as before. It was not definitively approved until Pope Benedict XI issued the Bull "Dum levamus" on 11 February 1304. Of the seven founders, St. Alexis alone lived to see their foundation raised to the permanent dignity of an Order. He died in 1310.
On 30 January 1398 Pope Boniface IX granted the Servites the power to confer theological degrees. It was in harmony with the tradition thus established that many centuries later the Order established the Marianum faculty in Rome.
The new foundation enjoyed considerable growth in the following decades. Already in the thirteenth century there were houses of the Order in Germany, France, and Spain. By the early years of the fourteenth century the Order had more than one hundred houses in locations including Hungary, Bohemia, Austria, Poland, and what later became Belgium. In subsequent periods came missions in Crete, the Philippines (St. Peregrine-Philippine Vicariate), and India.
The disturbances which arose during the Protestant Reformation caused the loss of many Servite houses in Germany, but in the south of France the Order met with much success. The Convent of Santa Maria in Via was the second house of the order established in Rome (1563), San Marcello al Corso having been founded in the city in 1369. Beginning in the early part of the eighteenth century the Order sustained a series of losses and confiscations from which it has yet to recover. A first blow fell upon the flourishing Province of Narbonne, which was almost totally destroyed by the plague which swept Marseilles in 1720. Thanks to secularizing inroads made by the Enlightenment, in 1783 the Servites were expelled from Prague and in 1785 the Emperor Joseph II desecrated the shrine of Maria Waldrast. The French Revolution and ensuing hostilities throughout western Europe caused widespread losses. Ten houses were suppressed in Spain in 1835.
After the seizure of Rome under the Italian Risorgimento in 1870, the government of Italy closed the Servite house of studies in the city, along with many other papal institutions. The institute was re-founded as the College of Sant Alessio Falcioneri in 1895.
After a gap of 25 years, in 1895 the house of studies in Rome was re-founded as the College of Sant Alessio Falcioneri. This development went hand in hand at this period with other initiatives and a new foundation was made at Brussels in 1891 and the Order was introduced into England and United States, chiefly through the efforts of the Servite Fathers Bosio and Morini. The latter, having gone to London in 1864 as director of the affiliated Congregation of the Sisters of Compassion, obtained charge of a parish from Archbishop Manning in 1867. The work prospered and besides St. Mary's Priory in London, convents were opened at Bognor Regis (1882) and Begbroke (1886). In 1870 Fathers Morini, Ventura, Giribaldi, and Brother Joseph Camera, at the request of Bishop Joseph Melcher of Green Bay, Wisconsin, took up a mission in America, at Neenah. Father Morini founded at Chicago (1874) the monastery of Our Lady of Sorrows. A novitiate was opened at Granville, Wisconsin in 1892 and an American province was formally established in 1908.
The order continued to expand geographically throughout the twentieth century, taking responsibility for missions in Swaziland in 1913, Acre in Brazil in 1919, Aisén in Chile in 1937, and Zululand in South Africa. It also made foundations in Argentina from 1914 and more solidly since 1921; Transvaal in South Africa since 1935, Uruguay 1939, Bolivia 1946, Mexico 1948, Australia 1951, Venezuela 1952, Colombia 1953, India 1974, Mozambique 1984, Philippines 1985, Uganda, Albania 1993, and also the refoundations in Hungary (Eger) and the Czech Republic.
After the Second Vatican Council, the order renewed its Constitutions starting with its 1968 general chapter at Majadahonda, Madrid, a process which was concluded in 1987. In the same year, Prior General Michael M. Sincerny oversaw the creation of the International Union of the Servite Family (UNIFAS).
The twentieth century also saw the beatification (1952) and the canonization of Friar Antonio Maria Pucci; the canonization of Clelia Barbieri (d. 1870), foundress of the Minime dell'Addolorata; the beatification of Ferdinando Maria Baccilieri of the Servite Secular Order (1999); the beatification of Sr. Maria Guadalupe Ricart Olmos (2001), a Spanish cloistered nun who was martyred during the Spanish Civil War; and the beatification of Cecelia Eusepi of the Servite Secular Order.
Through the centuries, the Servite Order has spread throughout the world, including all of Europe, parts of Africa, Australia, the Americas, India, and the Philippines. The general headquarters of the Servite Order is in Rome, while many provinces and motherhouses represent the Order throughout the world. In the United States there is one province of friars with headquarters in Chicago. There are four provinces of sisters with motherhouses in Wisconsin, Nebraska, and two in Illinois.
In common with all religious orders strictly so called, the Servites make solemn 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.
All offices in the order are elective and continue for three years, except that of general and assistant-generals which are for six years.
Canonized Servite saints are: St. Philip Benizi (feast day on 23 August), St. Peregrine Laziosi (4 May), St. Juliana Falconieri (19 June). The seven founders of the order were canonized in 1888, and have a common feast day on 17 February. The date first assigned to this feast day was 11 February, the anniversary of the canonical approval of the order in 1304. Since in 1907 this date was assigned to the celebration of Our Lady of Lourdes, the feastday of the Seven Holy Founders was moved to 12 February. The date was changed again in 1969 to accord more closely with liturgical tradition, to a date which marks the anniversary of the death of one of them, Alexis Falconieri, which occurred on 17 February 1310.
Connected with the first order of men are the cloistered nuns of the second order, which originated with converts of St. Philip Benizi. These nuns currently have convents in Spain, Italy, England, the Tyrol, and Germany.
The Mantellate Sisters are a third order of religious women founded by Juliana Falconieri, to whom St. Philip Benizi gave the habit in 1284. 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 the congregation was introduced into France, and from there extended into England in 1850. The sisters were the first to wear the religious habit publicly in that country after the Protestant Reformation and were active missionaries under Father Faber and the Oratorians for many years. This branch occupies itself with active works. They devote themselves principally to the education of youth, managing academies and taking charge of parochial schools. They also undertake works of mercy, such as the care of orphans, visiting the sick, and instructing converts. Organized into a number of religious congregations, some of pontifical and some of diocesan right, they have houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, and Canada. In the United States they are to be found in the dioceses of Sioux City, Omaha, Charlotte NC, and Chicago
The Secular Order of the Servants of Mary (Servite Secular Order) is a Catholic organization of lay men and women plus diocesan priests living their Christian faith in the context of the world. They strive toward holiness according to the spirituality of the Servite Order, following the directives of their Rule of Life. Secular Servites are asked to do the following each day: live the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love; pray and try to read Sacred Scripture each day, and/or the Liturgy of the Hours; and practice acts of reverence for the Mother of God daily, especially by praying the Servite prayer "The Vigil of Our Lady" and/or the Servite Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
There is also a confraternity of the Seven Dolours, branches of which may be erected in any church.
The Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum which is now one of the leading centers of Mariology was established by the Servite Order in accord with its tradition of many centuries. In 1398 Pope Boniface IX granted the Order the right to confer theological degrees. Suppressed by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870, it was reopened in 1895 under the name of Sant'Alessio Falconeri.
In 1939 the Servite Father Gabriel Roschini founded the journal Marianum and directed it for thirty years. In 1950 he was instrumental in the reorganization of the Servite house of studies in Rome as the Marianum Theological Faculty, which, on 8 December 1955 became a Pontifical faculty in virtue of the Decree Coelesti Honorandae Reginae of the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities under the authority of Pope Pius XII.
Ten members have been canonized and several beatified.
Several of the most distinguished Servites are here grouped under the heading of that particular subject to which they were especially devoted; the dates are those of their death.
Santa Maria dei Servi, Bologna, Italy
Chiesa dei Servi, Venice, Italy
San Carlo al Corso (Milan), Italy
Basilica Santuario della Beata Vergine delle Grazie, Udine, Italy
Santissima Annunziata Basilica, Florence, the mother church of the Servite Order
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Servants of Mary (Order of Servites)". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.