In the thirteenth century in the city of Florence, Italy, seven young men formed a group called the Praisers of Mary. They met in order to pray, and they were especially devoted to Mary.
The way they came to be founders of the Servite Order is remarkable. On the feast of the Assumption, while the seven friends were deep in prayer, the Blessed Mother appeared to them. She inspired them to leave everything behind and to live alone with God. After several years of living as hermits, they went to their bishop. They asked him for a rule of life to follow. The bishop encouraged them to pray and to ask for guidance from Mary. Mary again appeared to the men. This time she was carrying a black habit (a kind of robe). At her side was an angel holding a scroll with the words “Servants of Mary” written on it. In this vision, the Blessed Mother said that she had chosen them to be her servants. She asked them to wear a black habit. This was the habit they started to wear in 1240. They also began to live their religious life according to the rule of St. Augustine.
The seven founders’ names are Bonfilius, Bonajuncta, Amideus, Hugh, Manettus, Sostenes, and Alexius. All of them except Alexius became priests. Alexius felt himself unworthy to be ordained.
Others joined the group and the Servite Order grew. The purpose of the members was to become more and more like Jesus, to preach the Gospel, and to spread devotion to Mary, especially as Our Lady of Sorrows. The Servite Order was approved by the Vatican in 1259. The seven holy founders were declared saints by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.
-Daughters of St. Paul