Seven Holy Founders
Our seven Fathers were born and grew up in the city of Florence. Drawn together by friendship and devotion to the Blessed Virgin, they gave themselves to common prayer and works of charity. Their desire to serve God eventually led them to leave their homes and their businesses, and to form a community outside the city walls. About the year 1245 they moved to Monte Senario where, for a time, they followed a life of prayerful seclusion. As others came to join them, they laid the foundations for the Servite Order, whose members would be committed to the service of the Lord and others. They promised to follow Christ and witness his gospel; they took the Blessed Virgin as their Lady; and they lived communal life according to the Rule of St. Augustine. Pope Leo XIII canonized them as the Seven Founders of the Servite Order in 1888.
In 1283, St. Philip Benizi, prior general of the Friar Servants of Mary, attempted to lead back to obedience to the Apostolic See, the citizens of Forli, then under interdict. He was driven out of the city with insults and violence. While he was praying for his persecutors, one of the crowd, an eighteen year old by the name of Peregrine, repented his striking of Philip and asked him for forgiveness. Philip received him with love. A few years later, guided by Our Lady, he received the Servite habit in the priory of Siena where he dedicated himself to her service.
Peregrine returned to his native Forli and passed his life as a friar in prayer, in devotion to Our Lady, in penance, and in helping the poor. Struck with a cancerous sore on his leg, he was miraculously healed while in prayer before an image of the crucified Christ. Because of this, his intercession is sought with great faith by the sick, especially by those with incurable illnesses. In St. Peregrine, the Servites see realized their ideals of service, prayer, devotion to Our Lady, and love of others, especially the poor. Peregrine was canonized in 1726.
St. Clelia Barbieri
St. Clelia Barbieri was born February 13, 1847 near Bologna, Italy. Her early years were passed in great poverty. In 1868, together with three companions, she founded a community to care for abandoned girls and to provide for their education. She died at the age of twenty-three on July 13, 1870. From the small group she founded was born the religious family of the Minims of the Sorrowful Virgin. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1989. Her feastday is July 13th.
St. Juliana Falconieri
St. Juliana Falconieri, of Florence, was attracted by the holy lives of the first Friars of the Servite Order. She consecrated her life to God, devoting her time to prayer and works of penance and charity. She is properly considered among those women who, while continuing to live in their own homes, adopted a Servite way of life. Juliana occupied a singular position among these women, so that the tradition of the Order has considered her the foundress of the Servite Sisters. She is noted for her devotion to the mother of the Lord and for her love of the Eucharist. St. Juliana was canonized in 1737 and her feast celebrated on June 19th.
St. Philip Benizi
St. Philip Benizi was born in Florence, Italy in the thirteenth century. He entered the Servite Order and was subsequently ordained a priest. In 1267, he was elected prior general and remained in office almost until his death. He served with wisdom, developed excellent laws, and fought to keep the Order from being suppressed. Recognized for his holiness, he attracted many to enter religious life and follow his example of Gospel values and the service of Mary. Because of his strong influence, he has been considered a "father of the Order." He died in 1285 and was canonized in 1671. His feast is celebrated on August 23rd.
St. Anthony Pucci
St. Anthony Pucci was born in 1819 at Poggiole, Italy. He entered the Servite Order at the age of eighteen. After his ordination to the priesthood he was sent to Viareggio where he was soon made pastor, an office he held for forty-five years, until his death. He gave himself totally to the service of God and Our Lady, and with loving care he was a father to all his parishioners, especially the needy. He died January 12, 1892 and was canonized in 1962. His feast is celebrated January 12th.