The Order of Servants of Mary (Ordo Servorum Mariae) was founded in Florence, Italy in the 13th Century by a group of seven rich merchants (the Seven Holy Founders) who on behalf of Mary decided to leave their present ways of life and became servants of Mary, the Mother of God. They founded their first monastery on Monte Senario near Florence. After a certain period, as the group continued to grow, the order spread to other parts of Italy and Europe and eventually to all continents in the world. The Servites belong to so called Mendicant orders and follow the rule proposed by St. Augustine. The fundamental pillars of the spirituality of the Servites are: Service, Fraternity, Marian Inspiration and Mercy.
This motto of the Seven Holy Founders is the central message of the Order of Servites. The order does not place emphasis on individuals but on fraternal community. In their commitment of service, the figure of Mary at the feet of the Cross of her suffering Son is their model. Since the Son of Man is still being crucified in his brothers and sisters, the Servants of his mother, wish to be with her at the foot of those countless crosses in order to bring comfort and redemptive co-operation.
In their ideal of service, the Servants of Mary are indeed inspired by the example of Christ who embodies the figure of the "the Servant of the Lord" (cf. Is 42, 1-7; 49, 1-9; 50, 4-11; 52, 13-53,12), who came "to serve and to give his own life as ransom for many" (Mk 10, 45) and is present in the midst of his disciples "as one who serves" (Cf. Lk. 22, 27; Jn.13, 3-17) and by the humble attitude of the blessed virgin Mary who presented herself as "the handmaid of the Lord" when she was called by God to collaborate in the saving plan of the incarnation of the Word (Lk. 1, 38).
By taking the daily crosses that come, the Servites try to grow each day in this sacrificial love. Remembering that we will be judged by the words: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat... I needed clothes and you clothed me!“ (Mt 25, 35-36), the friars deny all their interests to follow Jesus messianic work.
The fraternal communion characterizes our way of witnessing to the Gospel. It defines the life-style, and the work and prayer. It determines the form of government of the Order and it leaves a particular impression on our apostolic services. In our fraternal communion, we recognize a source of friendship and a safeguard of our consecration to the Lord in the chastity for the Kingdom.
The total dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary is another essential element of the life of the Order. It is rooted in the same experience of the Seven Holy Fathers at the beginning of their spiritual itinerary: "As they were aware of their imperfection, they humbled themselves, and with much devotion surrendered themselves at the feet of the glorious virgin May, the Queen of heaven, because she as a mediator and advocate, reconciled them to her Son and made them bear much fruits.“ That is why, from then on, they wanted to be called “Servants of Mary”. In fact the Order is very much convinced about the presence of Mary in its life and about the role of Mary taking part in her Son’s redemptive sufferings inspires the Servites to have a special veneration to Our Lady of Sorrows.
Following the model of Virgin Mary, queen and mother of Mercy, Servants endeavour to live this merciful love and they strive it to live it not only in the community but with all people.
Brief history of the Order:
1233 – Seven merchants from Florence establish the Order of the Servants of Mary
1241 – First monks settle down on Monte Senario near Florence (the first monastery of the order)
1250 – The first Servite church behind the walls of Florence is built
1299 – The order’s province in Germany with four monasteries is established
1304 – The Pope Benedict XI, approved the Rule and the Constitutions of the Order (The bull „Dum levamus“)
1310 – The death of St Alexis, the last of the Seven Holy Fathers
1360 – A monastery with a church in the part of Prague „Na Slupi“ is built
1400 – Large expansion of the Order. The centers of the Order are in Florence, Sienna, and Bologna. The monastery in Venice is built. The number of monasteries in Germany increases from 9 to 13.
16th century – As a consequence of the reformation there is a general boom of rural life in Italy. The Servites´ theologists take part in concil in Trident
1539 – On the mountain Monte Senario a new branch of the order is established – The Hermits from Monte Senario
1600 – In consequence of the reformation confusion all German monasteries are abandoned
1627 – New monasteries by the St. Michael church at the Old Town in Prague are built
1628 – The Servites settle down on White Mountain in Prague for a short time
1666 – The Servites found the convent by the Church of the Virgin Mary of the Seven Sorrows in Rabstejn
1675 – The foundation of a monastery by the Church of the Virgin Mary of Loretto in Jaromerice nad Rokytnou
1677 – the coming of the Servites to Nové Hrady, the Monastery of St. Peter and Paul is founded.
1700 – New provinces are established in France and Spain
1710 – The monastery by the Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary in Králíky in Eastern Bohemia is founded
1714 – The foundation of a monastery by the Church of the Guardian Angels in Veselí na Moravě
1739 – The last convent in Czech countries is established – the monastery by the Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary in Konojedy nearby Litoměřice 18th century – In the first half of the century the Order experiences it’s biggest boom which is ended by Joseph’s reforms in which 6 out of 8 Czech Servites´ monasteries were abandoned 19th century – Owing to the secularisation by the emperor Napoleon the Order disappears for the second time from Germany. There are founded new monasteries in England, France, Belgium and the USA
1883 – The convent in Králíky is abandoned, the management of the place of pilgrimage on the Marian Hill is handed over to Redemptorist Order
1886 – The abandonment of the Czech province of the Order, the monastery in Nové Hrady, the last convent in the Czech countries, is incorporated into the Tyrol province of the Order of the Servants of Mary
1888 – The Seven Holy Fathers were canonized
1893 – The children’s home in Nové Hrady is established by Filipina Buquoy, the management was entrusted to the Order of Servite Sisters, called Mantelants
1950 – All of the monasteries for men in the former Czechoslovakia are abandoned
1991 – Restoration of the Order of the Servants of Mary in Czechoslovakia and renewal of the convent in Nové Hrady
2006 – The management of the monastery in Nové Hrady is handed over to the Papaly acknowledged Catholic missionary community „ The Family of Mary“
Currently the Servites are present in more than 30 countries through out the world. In the Czech Republic, in Dobrá Voda (near to České Budějovice), by the Church of the Virgin Mary of the Seven Sorrows, there are sisters working. They belong to the congregation of the Sisters of the Servants of Mary of Galea which is a branch of the Servites. You can receive further information about the Order from the prior of the convent of the Order of Servants of Mary in Innsbruck, Fra. Fero Bachorík, or on the web site: www.serviten.at