12 February 2010

Serving the Sorrowful Mother

Today on the traditional calendar, the Church honors the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. These seven men were Florentines who willfully took on a rigorously self-disciplined lifestyle with a special focus on our Blessed Mother. They were given a vision of our Lady, as they were deeply immersed in prayer. This occurred on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It was after that vision that the seven felt compelled to live a life of solitude. Their first place of withdrawal didn’t work out due to the many visitors they steadily received from Florence. They moved to Monte Senario, and there they built a hermitage and a church.

They received a visit from a bishop who was grateful and edified by their holiness. The bishop, however, was concerned about their very austere life. No doubt guided by the Holy Spirit, the bishop said to the seven men: “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.”

They had another vision of the Mother of God who held in her hand a black religious habit. An angel stood next to her holding a scroll titled, “Servants of Mary.” As per the instructions of our Blessed Lady, these men were to wear black habits and be known as Servites, or the Servants of Mary. She added that they were to follow the rule of Saint Augustine.

Their life was one of incessant meditation on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ while venerating His Holy Mother as the Mother of Sorrows.

In the Carthusian tradition there is this account of devotion to the Mother of Sorrows:
During the last century, Dom Ferdinand Rugieri, a monk of the Grande Chartreuse, moved by a tender devotion to the Sorrows of Mary, had offered himself as a victim to die on the feast of her Compassion. According to the Carthusian rite, this feast was kept on the eve of Palm Sunday. Several months beforehand, he foretold that he would die on that day. The feast of Mary’s Compassion fell in that year on 28 March 1874, and the good Dom Ferdinand Rugieri died as the Fathers were reciting around his bed the last verse of the Stabat Mater:

Quando corpus morietur
Fac ut animæ donetur
Paradisi gloria.

While my body here decays
May my soul thy goodness praise
Safe in Paradise with thee.