Feb. 24 will be the optional memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Order of the Servites. This feast, which is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, remembers seven wealthy merchants who courageously accepted the invitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to relieve themselves of their well-regarded statuses and worldly possessions in order to take up a life entirely devoted to prayer and penance.
This story, barely known by Catholics, portrays an incredible spiritual journey by seven men of nobility. These men, although religious, knew fully well that the invitation by the Blessed Virgin Mary was a leap of faith that drifted far from the opposite spectrum of their lives — lives filled with extravagant treasures and material possessions. This leap of faith was not taken in vain, but made possible through the many graces given by God.
The men, soon after submitting to the will of Mary, began to beg door to door. This begging was not for any charitable cause, but merely for their own survival and as a rejection of a world preoccupied with material possessions and personal strife. These men also assisted in hospitals, caring for the poor and teaching modesty and peace to those who wished to learn more about the Catholic faith.
These holy men are known for not only adopting the rule of St. Augustine, our college’s patron saint, but for founding a religious order still in existence today, known as the Friar Servants of Mary.
While there are many spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from this story, the principal one involves the remission of pride. Pride often encompasses our very being into believing that we are higher than anything else and deserve everything that is good. Humbling ourselves as these men did is seen today as lunacy, but in fact living in humility is at the heart of Catholic teaching. We must live virtuous lives and stop aiming for a more attached lifestyle which desperately desires deification, or in other words, to be “Godlike.”
Today’s shallow and prideful culture would deem the particular nature of sacrificing one’s life for God barbaric and disgraceful. The virtue of humility is not striving to be “Godlike,” but living in relationship with God, fully knowing that we are not the sole dispensers of our faith and salvation. Sadly, this is an all too common and deceitful belief that many college students and faculty have today.
If while reading this you catch yourself asking, “But isn’t humility comparable with humiliated?” I would answer “most definitely, yes.” Do you not think Christ, the Son of God, who should have been treated with the most respect humanely possible, yet was humiliated on the way to Calvary? Let us remember, “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6–8).
It is difficult for college students to live a humble life, especially similar to these seven men, when so many of us have been indoctrinated to believe that the opulent or extravagant lifestyle is the only, indeed the most desirable, lifestyle to strive for. I can say this only as gently as God has endowed me to, but: it is time to wake up.
We do not live in a fairytale life, but are expected to live the truth, which is ambivalent to popular brands and financial ambitions. In time, this truth will blossom into a dependence on God not only for life itself, but for any good which comes from us or to us. Humility is absolutely necessary in order to make this sort of progress. However, this is diametrically opposite of the corporate world, which misleadingly cites pride as the fuel of success.
Let us not think of this memorial for the Seven Founders of the Servites as a petty feast of the Church’s calendar, but rather a call to live humbly, always striving for that humility which God so lovingly and passionately bestowed upon these seven men.