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posted Aug 20, 2015, 10:33 AM by Vidal Martinez

Every religious Order of the Church has a charism or spirit that is particular to that community. A charism is an Order’s response to the action of God by the community. The charism of the Servants of Mary is lived through three elements: fraternity, Mary, and service. 

 Servites understand fraternity as an invitation to see the values of community living as being together as brothers. From within the confines of our fraternity we experience the presence of Jesus through the lives of those brothers whose lives we share. The individual experience of Jesus by each friar helps the entire community realize the presence of Jesus operative in the life of the community. From the communal experience of the presence of Jesus, the friars go forth into society and the world to share this same presence of Jesus with those to whom they minister. Servites attempt to build community where they live and work by witnessing attitudes of peace, justice and compassion within their ministry. 

The person of the Mother of God has a very special place in the lives of Servites. Mary challenges us to develop attitudes of welcome to the Lord who calls us to respond to His invitation to holiness as Mary did “I am the servant of the Lord.” The Servite devotion to Mary further challenges us to stand near the crosses of those persons who are neglected or rejected by our society: the poor, the abandoned, and the sick. We stand at these crosses as Mary did, with a sense of hope believing in God’s promise that He will take care of those who find life burdensome and are alone.

  Service to others, especially to the poor and the sick whom the Lord calls most blessed in the Kingdom, is our response to the Lord’s invitation as co-creators and citizens of the Kingdom of God. Servites serve so as to bring about the presence of God’s kingdom here on earth. The Servite Charism is our particular way of living out the Gospel command to love on a daily basis.


posted Sep 16, 2014, 8:40 PM by Vidal Martinez

A Sign of Grace 

Nepi is a small, ancient town in the Tuscia area of Viterbo about 30 miles north of Rome. Sleepy and provincial, it was once predominantly agricultural. Cecilia came to live here from Monte Romano, a town close by where she was born on February 17, 1910 the youngest of 11 children. Her widowed mother and maternal uncle set up home just over a mile from Nepi, in a farm known as “La Massa” in the Lante della Rovere dukedom where Cecilia’s uncle worked as a bailiff. Sensitive and full of life, Cecilia grew up in a particularly loving household. She had a special relationship with her uncle to whose care her father entrusted her on his deathbed. Like other children of her social class, Cecilia was sent to school at the age of six at Nepi’s Cistercian convent which also provided board and lodging for orphans of war. Such was Cecilia’s sensitivity and absorption of all she was taught that the nuns had high hopes of having her in the convent one day as a sister. But it was not convent life that attracted Cecilia. Near the convent, stood the parish church of San Tolomeo, run by the Servants of Mary with a seminary attached which was then packed with aspiring missionary priests. All the local young people gravitated to the parish of San Tolomeo, and Cecilia, having finished elementary school, also passed her time here. It was here that her vocation would rapidly develop and with surprising clarity. Thus, at the tender age of 12, she and some older girls asked to join the Order of the Servants of Mary as a tertiary. The following year, despite her young age and her family’s attempts to dissuade her, she obtained a dispensation from the bishop to become a postulant of the Servants of Mary. She would go to Rome to study, then to Pistoia further north and then to Zara. But she was never to realize her ambition to be a missionary. In October 1926, she was stricken by the disease which would bring about her death two years later and so she was forced to return to Nepi. 

This is the sum of her story. Cecilia herself speaks of all the circumstances that made up her life in her autobiography Story of a Clown – a humorous title reflecting what she thought of herself – “a little clown”. She wrote her story at the request of Father Gabriele Roschini, her confessor, and she consigned it to him in June 1927 in the form of an old school exercise book. “Father, forgive me for being so untidy ... sorry about the title”, she told him, laughing, “but I could think of nothing better for the story of my life”. The request that she keep a diary had come from none other than Cardinal Alessio Lepicier of the Order of the Servants of Mary who had occasion to meet the attractive clear-eyed girl on his visits to Nepi. This is what Fr. Roschini told the beatification process: “One day, His Eminence received me in audience. I informed him of Cecilia’s return to Nepi owing to illness and His Eminence said: ‘That young girl is a sign of the grace of God. She is a chosen soul. Father, you would do well to ask the girl to keep a diary. I am sure we would benefit from it’”. The simple clown’s story thus began as obedience to the will of her superiors, even though it was an effort for her because of her illness. “ ... I am happy to fulfill this task, knowing that I am doing something pleasing to Jesus, first of all by obeying and then by manifesting His infinite mercy to me, small and weak little flower that I am”.

Like Saint Theresa of Lisieux 

The diary dwells on her childhood. Cecilia’s style is charged with tender, child-like images and paragons that make for a moving, highly detailed story. Cecilia seems to have an extraordinary memory of the objects and emotions that were part of her early life. She has a perception of her own fragility and an equally clear awareness from the start of being loved in a special way, without any special merit on her own part. She makes the reader smile at times at her dialectical, ingenuous turns of phrase which seem to contrast with the wisdom underlying her reflections. Readers of this story may marvel at the child-like and confidential way in which Cecilia speaks of her bond of belonging to Jesus: “Yes, I love Jesus very much ... but where are all the works, the works demonstrating this love? I have none ... Father. But I am not bothered. I will fly to Him on the wings of my great desires or, better, I will try to be a small child, so that I may always be held in His arms. What kind of works can children be expected to do? To show their affection, all children need are caresses, kisses. All they offer are tiny, humble flowers of the field because they can gather as many of those as they like”. But Cecilia’s whole wisdom lies in this child-like state, of self-abandonment to the grace of God – like Saint Theresa of Lisieux. As she herself says: “I will reach Jesus by a little pathway, a short, very short one, that has been paved for me by little Theresa”. It was in reading The Story of a Soul that the desire to embrace the religious life was born in Cecilia even as a child. “Even as a child, I was concerned about the toil of missionaries. The good fathers told of distant lands, of conversions and baptisms. The greatest aspirations filled my heart and I too hoped to go far where no one would know me so that I could make Jesus known and loved as I loved him. I desired the salvation of the souls of the poor unbelievers and I would have sealed my faith with blood. The nuns told us of the lives of the saints. One day, I happened to read the story of Theresa of Lisieux. I read it all in one go and it moved me to tears ... I really did not understand much of it ... but I did grasp one thing immediately: that holiness does not consist in the greatness of mortifications, in the greatness and extraordinary nature of works and deeds ... not everyone can aspire to that kind of holiness ... and I felt in my heart that this was the road I ought to travel”. When Cecilia read The Story of a Soul, she was not yet ten years old and Theresa of Lisieux had still to be declared “Venerable”. Later she would say: “It had never entered my head to call her sister even though I was aware that, between my soul and hers, there was a great similarity, not because of any correspondence of grace, but because of the gifts of grace that Jesus granted us”. 

“The importance of reading the lives of the saints, especially of the French saint, is incalculable in Cecilia’s life as a human being”, said Tito Sartori. “The autobiographical story and her diary are testimonies to this. They are patent proof. Cecilia clearly manifests her dependence on Theresa both in terms of concepts and of the motions of the spirit: the decanting of the Lord’s mercy, the awareness of her own weakness, her feeling attracted by Jesus. But they have other things in common, too: their embrace of the religious life at a young age, their consciousness of being preserved from mortal sin, the event of their own conversion, their difficulty in reading spiritual texts, the desire, not for suffering but for self-abandonment only, that they both had two missionaries as spiritual brothers to accompany with prayer, their experiences of spiritual crisis, their premature deaths of the same disease”.

Jesus’ “Little Nothing” 

On October 23, 1926 Cecilia returned to Nepi to live out her last brief and painful period of her life as the TB became fully manifest and progressively more acute. It was a time made even more painful by the loneliness caused by what she calls her “exile at La Massa”, an anguished exile because she knew that she would never be able to take her vows in that she was far from Nepi and becoming the victim of calumny on the part of the landowners. Her one comfort was her filial devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows whom she calls her “heart” and to the Eucharist, her “treasure” which Fr. Roschini brought to her punctually twice a week in all weathers. Her exile was also relieved by the frequent visits of farmworkers, by members of Catholic Action and by the seminarians accompanied by their priests who were wont to ask this sick, young and poorly educated girl for advice on their homilies. In those last years, Cecilia was to develop a more than lucid consciousness of the “little way”: “Humility, abandonment, love”. She writes: “Abandonment – how dear is this virtue! Oh, if only everyone understood it, the world would be transformed into the waiting room for Paradise! It lets us rest serenely in Jesus’ lap, lets us sleep laying our head on His heart, lets us live happily because we have abandoned ourselves to such a friend and we are certain of our fate. Like the child who has to cross a dark forest at night with his mother. He holds on to her skirt certain that his mother will lead him home. Thus is the soul that abandons itself to Jesus”. Her simplicity and cheerfulness were never to leave her even on her deathbed. She died singing the prayers to Mary she had learned as a child. It was October 1, 1928 and even this date seems to mark another coincidence. Theresa had died a day earlier in 1897, on September 30. And on October 1 1927, the year Pius XI proclaimed Theresa patron of the missions, Theresa had appeared to Cecilia in a dream, heralding her death on that date, as the diary tells us. 

“When she died”, recalls an elderly farmer who knew her, “some people said that a saint had died. But others claimed that she was just good, a good girl who had suffered, and they criticized these others for insisting on making a saint of her. However, her funeral was a feast day. It was like going to a wedding. The Servants of Mary gave a dinner in her honor and on that same day, benefactors from a long way away, sent them a considerable sum of money used to set the seminary back on a sound financial footing. This was the wish Cecilia had expressed”. Cecilia had asked to be laid to eternal rest in the Church of San Tolomeo, at the foot of the Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows, where her “heart” was. This desire was also fulfilled. During the war, the monks decided to transfer her remains inside the Church for fear of bombs. On that occasion, her body had to be officially recognized on exhumation and all who were present were amazed to see that it was intact – and still is – “and her skin was so soft”, recalls Father Pietro, San Tolomeo’s present parish priest, “she seemed to be sleeping ... In dressing her, we had noticed that she had an open wound on her back but, imagine our amazement when we saw that there was no sign at all of the devastating effects of the TB”.

“The sum of it all”, Cecilia had written at the start of her Story of a Clown, “is recognizing one’s nothingness ... I am sure that if Jesus had granted the same grace to some other soul as He granted to me, the halo of holiness would not have been long in circling that head, but it pleases Jesus, Who likes to joke with His creatures, to steep in grace the least probable, people who might not be worthy, the ones who seem to Him to be the most wretched, in order to make His mercy shine forth all the more, and he takes pleasure in their confusion and wonder”.


posted Sep 14, 2014, 9:18 PM by Vidal Martinez

in the humanist transcription of Nicholas Borghese (1483)


The most authoritative life of Saint Peregrine is
without doubt his Life or Legenda, written about 1350,
shortly after his death which tradition places about 1345.
With all probability it was written by a Servite friar who
knew Peregrine personally or who had gathered information
from eye witnesses.

At the present time we do not have the original text
of this Legenda of Saint Peregrine. It was written in medieval
Latin which was in use in the fourteenth century. We do,
however, possess a transcription of this Legenda in classical
humanistic Latin written not later than 1483 by Nicholas
Borghese (1432-1500), a noted statesman and humanist of
Siena. Besides the life of Saint Peregrine he became interested
in the lives of other Servite saints and blessed. He composed
a biography of Blessed James Philip of Faenza, through
whose intercession he was cured of a type of dark depression.
And since the friars in Faenza had given him such warm hospitality
he agreed to write also the lives of Saint Philip Benizi,
Blessed Joachim of Siena, and Blessed Francis of Siena.
From detailed analysis of the manner in which
Borghese used his sources it is possible to reach the following

1. The subject matter is given substantially in its entirety
and in the same order as the original.

2. For the sake of brevity, the author makes frequent
omissions. For example:
a. The miracles which the saint or blessed worked
during his lifetime, which are quite numerous in the original
texts, are reduced to one or two. No more than four of the
miracles worked after death are given.
b. Elements of Marian theology are frequently omitted
or notably abbreviated.
c. Even biblical quotations are often omitted.

3. Out of reverence for a classical outline, Borghese
organizes the material chosen from the sources into three
periods. The first period is that preceding birth, with information
about his place of origin and parents, and at times
the future holiness of the child is foreseen. Second, the period
of his life, with episodes of his infancy, adolescence,
signs foretelling his greatness, entrance into the Order, testimony
of his holiness as proven by signs and miracles, and
his death, usually announced by divine omens. Third, the
period after death, characterized by miracles.

4. Borghese transcribes his sources in a sober, faithful,
even servile way, using various synthetic and literary devices.
For example: a series of episodes or long sentences
are summarized on the basis of qualitative value; or they are
synthesized with recourse to relative clauses and participles,
to indirect discourse rather than direct.
In conclusion: Borghese follows his sources scrupulously,
adding nothing, even the smallest amount of his own.
The omissions, as we have said, impoverish the biblical and
Marian aspects. Nevertheless, what he conserves of his original
texts is interpreted accurately according to the texts
themselves. His is simply a literary dressing. The medieval
Latin of the sources given to him were thought at that time
to be outdated and little attractive to the renewed tastes of
the Renaissance, and so the medieval Latin was converted
into the harmonious and bright Latin of classical antiquity.
Once this conversion was made, it often happened that the
original texts fell into disuse, even to the point of disappearing.
Unfortunately, the original text which Borghese
used for the life of Saint Peregrine is still unknown to us,
but I would like to reiterate the judgment I formulated years
ago: the scrupulosity, which Borghese shows when we can
check his work, is such as “to guarantee morally the same
carefulness of method in transcribing even a source unknown
to us, such as the one from which he wrote the life
of Saint Peregrine”.
That Borghese had a written source before him can
be seen from external and especially internal arguments.
Two external arguments are of noteworthy importance:
the commitment of Prior General Christopher
Tornielli of Giustinopoli, who died 16 June 1485, thanks to
whom many compositions about the saints of the Order
were written at this time; and the comparison of the life of
Saint Peregrine by Nicholas Borghese with that written by
Pino di James Cedri of Forli in 1528, using an authentic text
of the same medieval life which at that time was found in
the Servite priory of Forli. This text was lost about 1594
“because of the negligence of the fathers”. The life by
Cedri, as can be determined by an internal examination, depends
in fact on a written source. And since the life by
Cedri is very similar to that of Borghese, one may deduce indirectly
(but validly) that Borghese also depended upon a
written source.
The second type of proof, founded on internal evidence,
is based on a comparison with the life of Blessed
James Philip, written directly by Borghese from oral information.
There are numerous differences between these two
texts. A few are:
1. Direct discourse and supernatural intervention is
very frequent in the life of Saint Peregrine; but rather sporadic
in the life of Blessed James Philip.
2. The life of Saint Peregrine is sprinkled with numerous
biblical quotations (about thirty), while there are
only two references to the gospels in the life of Blessed
James Philip.
3. But the most important difference is the complete
absence of Marian elements in the life of Blessed
James Philip. On the contrary they are of great importance
in the life of Saint Peregrine, which from start to finish is
imbued with a Marian Christocentrism and a Christocentric
The Mother of Jesus, in fact, performs a role of utmost
importance in the journey of Peregrine toward Christ.
From the beginning to the end she is present as the “way”
which leads to her Son. In a motherly way, Mary is most attentive
to the events of Peregrine’s life. On his part, Peregrine
lives in all sincerity that Marian devotion which was
found in all the faithful at that period. He knows that he is
the spiritual “son” of the Mother of Jesus after whom he patterns
his actions. As a true Servant of Mary, he reproduces in
himself the evangelical traits of the Virgin, his Lady.
To demonstrate Peregrine’s choice of life, the
source used by Borghese follows a literary outline frequently
found in medieval lives of saints. These authors often like
to parallel the episodes of the life of a saint with those of the
life of Christ or Mary. It is a technique of composition used
to prove the thesis that the saint is one who patterned his
life on that of Christ and his Mother.
The life of Saint Peregrine applies this hagiographical
canon in a captivating manner. We see that the apparition
of Mary to Peregrine and the subsequent journey of
Peregrine to Siena are patterned respectively on the apparition
of the angel to Mary (Lk 1, 26-38) and on the journey
of Mary to Zachary’s house (Lk 1, 39-56). The principle that
rules this literary pattern is rather evident: the role of the angel
Gabriel is taken by Mary; and vice versa, the role of
Mary is assumed by Peregrine.
We have listed a series of clear external and internal
arguments to show that Nicholas Borghese followed the
pattern of a written text when he wrote the short biography
of Saint Peregrine. Now we want to say more: The source
which he had before his eyes was the ancient legenda of the
saint, written by a confrere shortly after his death, that is,
about 1350. This conclusion is based on the biography’s solid
biblical foundation, its clearly medieval flavor, and especially
the extraordinary richness of its Marian doctrine and
spirituality, which is so similar to that of the Servite lives of
saints of the fourteenth century.
In other words, in the life of Saint Peregrine written
in 1483 by Nicholas Borghese we certainly hear the echo of
the flowing and incisive testimony of the confrere who knew
the Saint. Even more, because of its rich biblical and spiritual
orientation and the exceptional Marian inspiration
which enriches it, the Legenda of Saint Peregrine can be
called an authentic pearl of the hagiographical literature
which flourished among the Servants of Mary in the first
century and a half of their existence.
Vita beati Peregrini Foroliviensis Ordinis Servorum sanctae Mariae a Nicolao
Burgensio equestri clarissimo edita. [Ed. P. SOULIER]. In Monumenta
OSM, 4 (1900-1901), p. 58-62.
An English translation, The Life of Saint Peregrine Laziosi, is found in
Origins and Early Saints of the Order of Servants of Mary: Writings of the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Chicago, Friar Servants of Mary,
1984), p. 115-133.


1. Forlì, renowned city of Romagna, was the birthplace
of blessed Peregrine. His father was a wise man, of the
illustrious and ancient house of Laziosi, a man richer in gifts
of the Spirit and virtues than in material goods.
Peregrine was the only child of his parents and
therefore tenderly loved by them. He had already decided
to put aside the vanities of this world in order to follow the
way of virtue and if he would keep to the right way during
life, death itself would be gain. He used to say that the condition
of this mortal life is illusory and vile.

2. Strengthened by this firm and holy decision, he
went one day to the Church of the Holy Cross. He remained
for a long time kneeling before the image of the Virgin
Mary. He then besought her to show him the way to his
salvation. Immediately the Blessed Virgin, adorned with
precious and festive clothing, appeared quite openly to him
and made this reply: “It is also my wish, my son, to direct
your steps along the way of salvation”.
Considering within himself this vision and these
words, he feared that, like an ingenuous dove, he might
have been deceived by the great deceiver and enemy of the
human race. Seeing him thus doubtful and dismayed, the
Virgin Mary spoke more gently still: “Do not fear, son, I am
indeed the Mother of him whom you adore crucified, and I
have been sent by him to show you the road of future happiness”.
Peregrine answered her in this way: “I am ready to
follow your commands, for in my heart I have always desired
above all other things that in no way would I turn
from your precepts. You therefore shall command, O
Queen; I shall promptly and willingly obey”. Then the glorious
Virgin said, “Do you know the religious called the friar
Servants of the Virgin Mary?”. Peregrine replied, “I recall
having heard many speak of them with great praise for their
Order and their holy life, but I do not know where they
live”. He said this because there was not yet a monastery of
the friar Servants of the Virgin Mary at Forlì. Immediately
the Virgin Mary replied, “You are called Peregrine. Therefore
you shall be a pilgrim in fact as well as name, for you
must go to Siena. When you get there you will find those
holy men intent on prayer. Ask to be admitted among

3. When he had heard these things, Peregrine immediately
set out and, accompanied by an angel, went to
Siena. When he arrived at the monastery he immediately
knocked at the door. An old porter came out and asked
him, “Whom are you looking for?”. He added that it was
now the prescribed time of silence. When the porter had
thus spoken, Peregrine prostrated himself at the porter’s
feet, as if he were excessively tired. He humbly begged the
old man not to forbid him entrance, especially since he
wished to reveal some secrets to the prior. The porter then
let him in and at the end of the silence period brought him
to the prior. The prior looked him over carefully and inquired
where he was from. Peregrine replied, “I am from
Forlì”. The prior listened to Peregrine’s account and his decision;
then he and the friars who had gathered together
were easily persuaded to believe Peregrine was sent to them
by the Virgin Mary. They regarded the fact as a miracle of
the Virgin Mary, who often enlightens her faithful and with
great concern makes them sharers in happiness. Therefore
the friars willingly accepted Peregrine and invested him in
the holy habit of the Virgin Mary’s widowhood. As soon as
this was done, an amazing brilliance encircled his head as if
to testify he would faithfully keep the chastity, obedience,
and poverty which he had professed.

4. By the age of thirty he was an example to all of
virtue and a holy life. Afterwards, by command of his superior,
he returned to his own city, Forlì, to observe and keep
the precepts of the Lord. He mortified his flesh in an extraordinary
way, keeping vigils and fasts, beating his body
and (unbelievable as it is) for thirty years was never seen
seated. He always stood while he ate; he prayed on his
knees. If he were overcome with fatigue or sleep he would
rest for a short time on a rock, or if he were in choir, on the
benches. At night he did not sleep in a bed, but he spent almost
the whole night reading hymns and psalms. He meditated
continually on the law of God. He sought to imitate
the example of Christ with all his energy.
Each day he would examine his actions, shedding
tears for the offenses and mistakes which he thought he had
committed. And these he revealed daily to a priest and confessed
with many tears. The holy man accused himself of
many things because of his burning desire to observe fully
the law of God.

5. The most good and merciful God,, who usually
tests and by testing strengthens those who burn with supernatural
love, gave Peregrine a most grievous kind of disease.
One leg was so swollen and eaten away that all those who
came to take care of Peregrine could not restrain their tears.
The putrefying and extraordinary swelling of the
leg induced that terrible disease they call cancer. From this
came forth such a foul smell that it was unbearable for those
who came near him. For this reason he had been abandoned
by the others, and he even had a great loathing for
himself. He was called another Job, so afflicted and decayed
did he appear. Nevertheless, reduced to such great and distasteful
suffering, he did not complain about his lot. Rather
he endured this wasting away and torment with tranquil
spirit, trusting in the words of the Apostle, who says that
virtue is made strong in weakness.

6. A fellow townsman and physician named Paul de
Salaghi, grieving over Peregrine’s sickness, came to see the
suffering servant of God at home. He examined the leg, and
sought more detailed information about the extent of the
disease. Finally, with the consent of all, he came to the conclusion
that no remedy now remained for Peregrine to regain
his health except that the swollen leg be immediately
amputated, for the disease would soon spread and infect the
rest of his body. All agreed and it was decided to carry out
this decision. They thought it was better to sacrifice one
limb than lose the entire body.

7. On the night preceding the operation, Peregrine
meditated long on that decision and he decided to seek
refuge in Jesus Christ his Savior. He therefore arose, as best
he could, and unassisted dragged his body with great difficulty
to the chapter room, in which there was an image of
the crucified Jesus Christ. He humbly spoke these words to
him: “O Redeemer of the human race, you willed to undergo
the torment of the cross and a most painful death to
wipe away our sins. While you were on earth among mortals,
you healed many afflicted by various diseases. You
cleansed the leper, you gave sight to the blind man when he
said, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me’. In the same
way, deign, O Lord my God, to free this leg of mine from
this incurable disease. Unless you do this, it must be cut
off”. When he had said this, he fell asleep in great pain from
his disease and while asleep saw the crucified Jesus come
down from the cross and take away all sickness from the leg.
Soon he awoke, and felt the leg healed. It was as strong as if
it had never been diseased. Then he gave thanks to the most
kind God for so great a gift, and returned to his cell.

8. In the morning, when day brought its light, the
doctor arrived with his instruments and ointments to amputate
the leg. Peregrine said to him, “Go home, you who
have come to cure me. That doctor who restored me to
perfect health spoke thus to me: ‘I am he who gives and
takes away both health and sickness. I undertake the care
of both soul and body together. I am he who gave sight to
the blind; I cleansed lepers; I cured the paralytic; I brought
the dead back from the lower world. Behold, I am he who
refused no effort, no shame, nor the cruelest kind of death
for your salvation’. He who spoke thus has completely
freed me, doctor”.

When the doctor heard this, he thought Peregrine
had become delirious because of the disease and said,
“Show me your leg so that I can free you from this contagion
which is spreading to your whole body”. Peregrine
replied, “Doctor, cure yourself. I do not need your skill. The
prince of medicine and author of human salvation has by his
divine power taken away all my sickness”. Then he showed
the doctor his leg. “See with your own eyes” he said, “and
understand whom I have had as my doctor”. The doctor
was amazed beyond belief when he saw the leg thus healed
and well, for no signs of the great swelling, no scars of the
devouring cancer could be seen, and he said to his companions,
“What a great miracle!”.

He then left and spoke about the wonderful work
of God in his servant to all he met and spread the word
throughout the entire city. Report of such great happiness
quickly spread in all directions, and brought with it a great
veneration of all toward the friend of God, Peregrine.
He was made even more pleasing to God after this
and followed the way of the Lord with all his strength, longing
for the heavenly joys prepared for all who keep the lifegiving
commands of the Lord.

9. He died at the age of almost eighty, consumed by
a burning fever. The Virgin Mary accompanied by blessed
Philip of Florence and blessed Francis of Siena of the same
Order conducted his soul to the dignity of the heavenly
kingdom. Immediately after his death, his lifeless body gave
off a most fragrant odor, so that those present wondered in
amazement at this sweetness.

The holy body which had covered the now triumphant
soul lay, as is the custom, on a litter in the choir.
Then as if the death of the holy man had been announced
by a trumpeter, it was on the mouths of all the townspeople
and they rushed to see the remains venerated in the choir.
Likewise the inhabitants of the countryside poured through
all the city gates, drawn by the report of the death of the
holy servant of God. Indeed that night the gates of the city
could not be closed because of the multitudes coming in.
Nor was Blessed Peregrine lacking the heaven-sent
confirmation of his holiness by means of miracles. We shall
content ourselves here to mention two or three, while in the
church of the Servants of the Virgin Mary in Forlì the memory
of many others is conserved with authentic writings and
notarized documents.

Miracle of the blind man who saw.
10. While the body of Blessed Peregrine was lying
in state in the choir, a poor blind beggar approached the
holy remains and from the depths of his heart asked that his
sight be restored.
O the infinite power and grace of God who manifests
himself in his servants! Then the body of Blessed Peregrine
rose up and, in front of an innumerable crowd,
blessed the blind man with a sign of the cross and immediately
scales were seen to fall from his eyes. The man who
had been blind shouted for joy and before all declared that
he could see well; then, after having thanked God and
Blessed Peregrine, went away a happy man.

Healing of a possessed woman.
A woman of Forlì was possessed by one or many of
the worse type of demon. She was so filled with anger and
enraged that she could not be restrained by fetters or
chains. On the contrary, she had such great power that she
would break the bonds or escape from them. Since the
renown of the miracles had spread rather widely, her family
members dragged her to the sacred relics of Blessed
Peregrine which had been placed in the church. As soon as
she touched them, the evil spirit was expelled with a horrendous
shriek, while those present saw many animals being
spewed from the mouth of the possessed woman and they
heard these words: “Your prayers, O Peregrine, have tormented
me most harshly”. The woman, freed from all power
of the devil, gave great thanks to God and to Blessed
Peregrine, and then she returned happy with her family to
her home.

Healing of a men who fell from a tree.
A man had climbed a rather tall tree; but then he
slipped and fell to the ground. Because of this his intestines
burst forth and there was no hope that he could live. But
then, through the intercession of Blessed Peregrine, he regained
perfect health. Mindful of this grace, he gave due

The generalate of St. Philip Benizi

posted Aug 23, 2014, 10:05 AM by Vidal Martinez

In spite of a promising start and the support of Peter of Verona, the Servites were soon to encounter such difficulties that the very survival of the Order was placed in jeopardy.

The chief protagonist in this tempestuous period was St. Philip Benizi of Florence. He had entered the Order about twenty years after the original decision of the Seven, and was to die in 1285, probably before most of them.

In order to understand this period properly, two dates have to be kept in mind: 1215 and 1274. In 1215, during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III, the Fourth Council of the Lateran was held. In 1274, the Second Council of Lyons was celebrated in the reign of Pope Gregory X. Between these two dates the Dominicans and the Franciscans became established and flourished.

Apart from its principal concern, the fight against heresy, the important matters before the Fourth Lateran Council was how to put some order among the many religious movements that were springing up throughout the Church. The unifying policy of Pope Innocent III could not allow these to escape the control of the Roman Curia. Canon 13 of the Fourth Lateran Council stated in blunt terms that any individual or group who wanted to embrace religious life had to choose one of the existing forms approved by the Church authorities. If any individual or group really wanted to found a "new" form, they would have to adopt one the approved "Rules" - those of St. Benedict and St. Augustine for the West, and that of St. Basil for the East. This did not mean that a new foundation had to be subordinate to one of the existing orders in the Church, but it did make it rather difficult to found new orders because every individuating characteristic could be termed "new" and therefore a reason for the Church to withhold recognition.

Nevertheless, new religious movements did spring up after the Fourth Council of the Lateran, even though the majority of them took the precaution of adopting either the Rule of St. Benedict or that of St. Augustine.

As we have already seen, new religious orders did receive ecclesiastical approval from the local Church authorities and explicit protection from the Roman Curia. But, if the papacy itself is immutable, individual popes come and go.

The Second Council of Lyons decided to dust off the thirteenth canon of the Fourth Lateran Council. It stated that the Lateran Council's ruling had been so far disregarded that there was now an unbridled multiplication of new religious institutes. And so it, decreed, with even more severity, that the founding of new mendicant orders was now forbidden. Those established since 1215 were forbidden to receive new entrants, and were therefore condemned to eventual natural extinction. In the dispositions of the Council, this ruling was valid even for those institutes established after 1215 which had received approval from the Holy See but which professed total poverty and relied on the uncertain proceeds of begging for their support.

The Servants of Mary fell into this category; the act of poverty of 1251 had included the renunciation of all goods, property and possessions of any kind.

The situation was now more serious than after the Lateran Council. There were many exceptions to the Council of Lyons' ruling. The concept of "mendicants" as defined by the Council included both the Franciscans and the Dominicans, but these were explicitly exempted from the law. Since, moreover, the Council did not name all the orders concerned and some of them, even of quite recent origin, had powerful protectors at the Council, more than one, condemned on paper, in fact managed to escape.

Some chroniclers of the period included the Servants of Mary among the suppressed orders. The Servites, indeed, now entered into one of the most critical periods of their early history, and managed to save themselves from extinction, humanly speak­ing, though the energy, courage and ability of their prior general, St. Philip Benizi.

Philip was born in the Oltrarno district of Florence in 1233, the son of Giacomo Benizi and Albaverde. The Legenda de origine and the Legenda beati Philippi give ample space to the details of his life. The brief reconstruction given here is based chiefly on these two documents.

On Easter Thursday 1254, Philip received his mysterious but clear call to religious life while at prayer in the Servite church at Cafaggio. He entered the Order on 18 April of the same year. Tradition has it that, a few days after receiving the religious habit, Philip asked Fra Bonfilius if he could go to live at Monte Senario. "St. Philip’s Cave," on the eastern slope of the hill, is still pointed out to visitors today, along with the nearby spring known as "St. Philip’s Fount."

Hiding his education, Philip had asked to join the Order as a lay-brother. He was one for four years until an unexpected incident occurred, which forced him to reveal his learning. The story is told by the Legenda of St. Philip, which puts into the mouth of the saint one of the oldest and most touching descrip­tions of the nature and mission of the Servite Order. The episode reads like this: "It happened that Philip, out of obedience, went on a journey to Siena with a friar by the name of Victor. On the road were met by two religious of the Order of Preachers coming from Germany. These were puzzled at seeing our friars' habit. Their curiosity soon led to a conversation with Blessed Philip, and they inquired what kind of life they led and what Order's habit they were wearing. The man of God, Philip, in true humility but with marvelous wisdom, made the following reply: ‘ If Your question is about our place of origin, we are sons of this land. But if you wish to know our status, we are called Servants of the glorious Virgin, the habit of whose widowhood we wear. We live the life instituted by the holy Apostles, and follow the rule of the saintly doctor Augustine.' As they continued their conversation profound questions, to which the in wisdom and conviction, proving his adherence to true doctrine in every case and his ability to support it with numerous authorities and examples from the lives of the saints. When they had finished, each went his own way. Then Bless Philip's companion said to him, 'Brother, when you were received into the Order, why did you not make known the knowledge you possess, as we are so short of men of learning. Just now, you have shown great scholarship in debating with those two religious. I can tell you for a certainty that this very day the light of learning has begun to shine in our Order.' Then Blessed Philip begged him on his knees, for the love of God, not to reveal this to anyone. But as soon as they had both returned to Florence, Fra Victor began to speak and make known to all the others how Blessed Philip had dealt with those strangers. This caused much rejoicing among the friars. They promoted Philip to the clerical state and gradually advanced him to sacred orders."

Philip Benizi was ordained priest probably in 1258 or 1259, and a pious tradition tells of the celebration of his first Mass in the Chapel of the Apparition on Monte Senario. Nine years later, at only thirty-four years of age, he was elected prior general of the Order.

We shall omit the traditional story of how Philip Benizi refused the papacy. Afterwards, he is supposed to have gone to pray by himself on Monte Amiata, and the spring of mineral water produced by his prayers still flows today, at the place now called Bagni di San Filippo, near Castiglione d'Orcia in the province of Siena.

Philip Benizi was elected prior general in 1267. Seven years later, he was confronted by the situation resulting from the decisions of the Council of Lyons. The Servants of Mary found themselves at a crossroads, for they had been founded well after 1215. F.A. Dal Pino describes the position thus: "Either they could recognize that they fell into the category of mendicant order described by the Council, and therefore resign themselves to gradual extinction like the Brothers of Penance of Jesus Christ and their namesakes, the Servants of Mary of Marseilles, or they could attempt to prove that juridically they were no longer a mendicant order as they had been at the time of their foundation. They could argue that they could be classed as one of the orders founded after the Fourth Council of the Lateran but which followed an accepted Rule and had the Holy See's approval, and hence they had the right to continue in existence."

Philip chose the latter path. Some have argued that this meant that he must have imposed a "historical turnaround" on the Order, but in fact, Philip was only continuing and consolidat­ing a direction the Order had been following since at least the general chapter of 1257.

In support of the line that the Servites were a mendicant order there was the "act of poverty" of 1251; there were also the letters of Popes Innocent IV and Alexander IV recognizing that act, as well as deeds of purchase of property in which, in obedience to the act of poverty, they had stated that they were acquiring on behalf on the Holy Roman Church, not for themselves.

On the other hand, in support of the opposite position - and the only way for the Servites to survive - the prior general could argue that noteworthy exceptions had been made to the act of poverty, at least from 1257 when the general chapter had first requested this; these all received due permission from the Church authorities. Furthermore, the Order had, right from the start, followed the Rule of St. Augustine; its legislation (perhaps after a careful and quick revision) contained nothing that could be interpreted as a prohibition of property.

Providence decreed that a saint like Philip Benizi was needed to pursue such a course of action. It involved some compromises and manipulations along the way. Perhaps it is better that saints have to defend positions that may not be altogether sound, than that evil men should uphold justifiable causes.

Elected to an office he was reluctant to accept, Philip carried out his mandate with the integrity, coherence and lack of self-interest that are typical of saints.

. Philip's plan of action to counteract the Council's injunc­tions about the suppression of religious orders founded in the last sixty years was based on the sensible idea of one small step at a time. He understood that time was on the side of the Servites, and that it is the interplay of unexpected events that often determines the course of history.

The first of these unexpected events was the rapid succession of popes in the years immediately following the Council of Lyons. Gregory X, who had wanted the Council and had every intention of carrying out its dictates, died at the beginning of January 1276, before even getting back to Rome from the Council. Innocent V was then elected but reigned for only six months, to be succeeded by Adrian V, who died before his coronation. Next there was John XXI, who reigned but a year. There followed Nicholas III, whose pontificate lasted three years, Martin IV, who held office for four years, Honorius IV with a reign of two years, and Nicholas IV, who ruled for four years. He was succeed­ed by Celestine V, who only held office for a few short months, to be followed by Boniface VIII, who reigned nine years. Finally, Benedict XI came to the papacy; his pontificate too was quite brief, but during it the Servites finally obtained their definitive approval, in 1304.

A sixteenth-century Servite historian described how Philip, before deciding which course of action to take in the complicated affair of the approval of the Order, secretly called together all the priors and leading figures of the Order at Monte Senario, there to plan a united campaign. It was during this meeting that they decided on the recitation of a series of prayers to the Blessed Virgin, to be offered daily by the friars for the welfare and survival of the Order. This "Vigil of the Blessed Virgin" is still recited by the Order; it is generally known by its opening words: Benedicta Tu (Blessed are you).

Since it was a juridical problem, Philip was constrained to have recourse to the leading lawyers of the time, and did not hesitate to beg the money necessary to pay these curial experts' fees from the priories of the Order. The communities, for their part, made it their business to look for bequests and offerings, and all this also helped demonstrate that they were not in fact "mendicants." The pope himself, in the person of John XXI, ratified a big donation of land made by Count Henry of Regen­stein in April 1277 to the Servite priory of St. Mary of Paradise in the German diocese of Halberstadt.

Sincere friends of the Order were not lacking among the cardinals; a good example is Ottobono Fieschi, who became Pope Adrian V although death overtook him before his corona­tion.

According to the Legenda de origine and other authoritative sources, Philip's activities to secure the survival of the Order also included some of an indirect nature. He was a peacemaker in Florence and Forlì, and this helped to gain the respect of the papal legates, who were unlikely to forget his services to their cause.

His mission to Forlì had one remarkable side-effect. He arrived at the Servite priory in the city in the period, when the city had been placed under interdict by Pope Martin IV (26 March 1282 - 1 September 1283). His mandate was to preach to the populace and urge them to return to obedience to the pope.

Not all of them heeded his words, and a group of hotheads seized and manhandled him out of the city. Among them was the young Peregrine Laziosi, who quickly repented of his part in it and asked to join the Order. Later, he was to be proclaimed the patron saint of the city; the priory there now bears his name and contains his tomb and many important relics of his life.

The uncertainties about the Order's future were slow to resolve themselves, and Philip had to undertake frequent journeys to Rome. On one of these, while staying at the poor and insignificant priory in Todi for a brief period of rest, he died, at the age of fifty-two, on Wednesday 22 August 1285.

In order to defend the Order's case for survival, Philip had been forced to accentuate, or at least to give prominence to, the reversal of the original commitment to poverty that had been gradually taking place in the Order. He came to die in the very poorest Servite priory.

Many portraits of Philip Benizi depict him with a book in his hand, a not uncommon symbol and capable of different interpretations. A pious tradition that came to light in the sixteenth century recounts that, on his deathbed, Philip repeatedly asked for "his" book, the crucifix.

The seed sown by Philip to save the Order from the death sentence pronounced by the Second Council of Lyons bore fruit under his successor, Lotaringo of Florence. Indeed, scarcely a year after his death, another series of favourable "opinions" from the lawyers at the Roman Curia helped unblock the situation once and for all; the Order's position was now more secure, and the way was open towards definitive approval by the Holy See.

This long and laborious business had its price. As has been seen, the "act of poverty" of 1251 had been incorporated in the bull Alexander IV granted the Order in 1256. In the documents of recognition obtained from the Holy See in the period from 1274 to 1304, there is not a single mention of that act. This enforced silence, as Aristide M. Serra has pointed out in his biography of St. Philip, leads us to suppose that "Philip had arranged for modifications to be made to the sections on poverty in the original Constitutions of the Order."

Careful research in some of the oldest priories of the Order confirms that, even in the period between the Second Council of Lyons and 1304, Servite communities continued to live in poverty, though not all of them in the same way. Some latent contradictions were to come to light when the Order, after its approval, began to give its attention to the continuing questions of its development and updating to meet the needs of the times while striving to remain faithful to its origins. One of the Founders of the Order, Alexis Falconieri, was indeed still alive in 1304. He is believed to have died in 1310.

The Order underwent multiple and sometimes contrasting experiences in little more than fifty years; these were perhaps inevitable in its growth towards an organized religious institute.

One can now ask: How did Servite communities actually live in the thirteenth century? In most cases, the question cannot be answered, for the documents have not come down to us, but a look at one of the most important of them can give us some general indications of how a typical community of the Order arranged its life.


(Short History of the Order of the Servants of Mary

V. Benassi - O. J. Diaz - F. M. Faustini)

Reflection July 2014 by Joyce Rupp, OSM

posted Jul 2, 2014, 2:51 PM by theresa orozco, ossm   [ updated Jul 2, 2014, 2:52 PM ]

This past week I led a five day retreat based on the theme of compassion for my own community members. Before I departed for the retreat, several friends commented, "Oh, that must be really challenging, to speak to your own community." Their comments implied that speaking to those who know me well meant I'd have to try harder because my community would be aware of my flaws. Actually, I felt just the opposite. Because I knew each vowed and associate Servite (we are a small group of less than 80 members in the USA) I felt at home with them. I not only believed they would be eager to engage in a topic at the heart of our congregation, I also trusted in their acceptance of me as I am. I did not feel a need to "prove myself."

Each day when I stood in front of the group to present a particular aspect of compassion for reflection and prayer I reminded myself, "You do not need to change anyone here. Each one journeys her own path. All that is required of you is to be a conduit for the wisdom of the Holy One to enter minds and hearts." This approach freed me from an egoism that urges me, or anyone "in charge," to designate myself as the CEO of other people's spirituality. And it gave each one present the opportunity to open in her own particular way as she turned toward grace - the loving movement of Spirit and the real source of spiritual growth.

Every word I spoke to those gathered at the retreat I also spoke to myself, knowing that the deeper down we go the more alike we are than different. When we realize this we do not judge others harshly for what is less than their best self because we know that we are not always our best self either. In each of us resides strengths we easily acknowledge, along with limitations we usually try to hide and wish would behave differently. I felt no need to conceal that part of myself. Rather, my acknowledgement of those less-than-worthy aspects encouraged each one present to be more loving and kind. In recognizing that none of us is perfect, each could accept that everyone has certain pesky rascals in our personality traits that try to trip us up in the transformation process. This truth allows us to turn inward and admit, "I, too, still have some tarnished stuff inside to polish into gold." We trust others to be as patient with our evolving growth as we are with theirs.

One of the prayers in Open the Door: a journey to the true self reflects this desire to welcome the totality of our self so that we will grow into more loving persons.

Embracer of the Rejected,
teach me how to lovingly welcome
the parts of myself that I do not want.
Draw me to your heart of mercy
as I learn from what I tend to reject.
Help me to change what I can
and to accept the sum of who I am.
I open the door of my heart to you.
I open the door.

Abundant peace,
Joyce Rupp

OSSM Facebook

posted Apr 19, 2014, 6:59 AM by Theresa Orozco   [ updated Apr 19, 2014, 7:03 AM ]

Reflections . Secular Servite Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of St. Peregrine

posted Mar 21, 2014, 7:19 PM by theresa orozco, ossm   [ updated Mar 21, 2014, 8:06 PM ]


posted Feb 12, 2014, 9:01 AM by Vidal Martinez   [ updated Mar 2, 2014, 11:30 AM by Theresa Orozco ]

I am SOURIRAJ Arulananda Samy. Since I have no surname, I take my father’s name as my surname (Indians are more Biblical, in the Bible there are no surnames, they take the name of their father, eg. Jesus son of Joseph). So I am SOURIRAJ son of Arulananda Samy. I like to be called SOURI (no need to say my full name). I am hailing from a big family. I have two brothers and three sisters, all are elder to me. They all are married and each one has enough children. One of my elder brothers passed away in 1994, when he was 24. I lost my parents in the year 2011, my father Mr. Arulananda Samy (10.07.2011) and my mother Mrs. Antoniammal (26.12.2011). Losing them in the same year was a shock for me. I have accepted the reality and continued my life with faith.  

I had my elementary and high schooling at my village itself. I had my higher secondary schooling at Vailankanni, nearby town, which was also my parish town. When I completed my higher secondary studies in the year 1993, I entered the Servite Order. I did my college studies at St. Joseph's, Trichy. I did my bachelor degree in Tamil Literature. I began my novitiate in the year 1997 and 31st May 1998, I took my simple profession. From 1998 to 2000 I did my philosophical studies at Dharmaram College, Bangalore. In the year 2000 and 2001 I did my year of regency (Pastoral year) in collaboration with the Jesuit fathers. I worked as prefect in their boys’ hostel and worked in their school to help the dropout students. From 2001 to 2005 I was in Rome to do my theological and mariological studies, meanwhile I also did a formative course to prepare myself for the apostolate of Formation. On 19th December 2004, I made Solemn Profession. On 19th October 2005 I was ordained as deacon and in 19th April 2006 ordained as priest.  

After my ordination I was appointed as vocation promoter for OSM Indian Vicariate and Coordinator for Chennai OSSM family. In the year 2008-2009 I worked as parochial vicar in one of our Servite parishes in India. In the year 2009 I started my MCL (Master in Canon Law) Studies in St. Peter's, Bangalore also helping with our professed friars as assistant master. I love to study psychology, but I was forced to pursue Canon Law. Just the same, I continued to have psychology as my second love and thus, I have titled my thesis: Use of Psychology in the Admission to Religious Life and Formation with Reference to Canon 642 and the Formative Programme of OSM. I defended my thesis in 2012 and that same year I was appointed as master for the professed in Bangalore. In 2013, I was one of the delegates for the General Chapter, where I was elected one of the General Councilors. 

As a person I am very talkative and extroverted by nature. I keep myself busy always by reading and writing. I have authored many articles on Mary in Tamil for our Servite Monthly Marian Magazine published in Tamil. I am interested in teaching and preaching, particularly about Mary. I have taught classes and conducted retreats both in Tamil and in English. I am fluent in speaking and writing Tamil, English and Italian. I am new to this service of administration and international realities. I hope that I could learn quickly and do my best. I am also always open for fraternal correction and suggestions.  

Fra Souri osm

To contact Fra Souri and send him your greetings and prayers:

Hill Connectons February 2014 annoucement

posted Feb 8, 2014, 2:11 PM by theresa orozco, ossm   [ updated Mar 2, 2014, 11:31 AM by Theresa Orozco ]

Greetings OSMers,
February 2014 Additions on Hill Connections

We invite you to check out our newest additions:

  • Perspectives on Social Issues: February 2014 — 1) Corruption, a Theft from the Poor 2) Bread for the World Leading Call for Reform in U.S. Food Aid 3) Reclaiming the Sacredness of Farming in India 4) Peacemaking Bishop Stresses Catholic Mission to Reduce Anger Among People 5) Electric Cars Can Work for Many More than Frequently Reported
  • Taking Time to Listen — A Spirituality and Art piece featuring a quotation, photo, and painting that invite reflection on the many ways that God speaks to us
All of these and more are available via links in the attached file, on the web, and in the "New" section on our home page: <http://hillconnections.org>.
Give an extra hug to those you love in this month of Valentine's Day,
~ Maggie and Mary Pat

Hill Connections Feb 2014

New General Council of the Order Servants of Mary | 2013-2019

posted Jan 14, 2014, 3:30 PM by Theresa Orozco   [ updated Mar 2, 2014, 11:32 AM ]

Another important day for the Order was Monday 23rd September, 2013, when at 9.30am when the Elections for the General Councilors, the Procurator General and the Secretary General of the Order began. After reading the Articles of the Constitutions OSM pertaining to these positions by the Secretary General of the Order, the Chapter proceeded to vote for these positions with the following results:

fr Gottfriedd M. Wolff TIR Priore generale
fr Paolo M. Orlandini ANN 1° Consigliere
fr Rhett M. Sarabia PHI 2° Consigliere
fr Jorge Luis M. Jiménez Delgadillo MEX 3o Consigliere
fr Souriraj M. Arulanandasamy IND 4o Consigliere
fr Hubert M. Moons CAN Procuratore dell’Ordine
fr Camille M. Jacques CAN Segretario generale

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