Seven Founders of the Order of Servites

(Servants of Mary) (entered heaven in the late 1200s)

Dear Sergey,

You are forgetting something very, very important.  I am afraid that if I just tell it to you, you won’t take me seriously.  What can I do to make sure you remember this as you discern God’s will for you?  Oh well, all I can do is remind you and pray for you, the rest is beyond my control.

The simple fact you are forgetting is that a vocation comes FROM GOD.  In that way it’s totally different than a simple “career” choice, or a decision about where to go to college.  Yes, God is interested in those decisions, and sometimes he takes the initiative in them, but a vocation is actually a call from God himself.  It’s something supernatural.

Therefore, the most important factor in your discernment is, without any doubt, the cultivation of your interior life.  God speaks to the heart, and so you have to accustom yourself to listening to him.  You have to be dedicated to your prayer life over a long period of time, with the guidance of a good spiritual director, in order to gradually learn how to distinguish God’s voice from the many other voices that clamor for your attention.  Maybe recalling the story of today’s saints will give you a boost in this regard.

These seven men were all leading citizens in medieval Florence, the great Italian city that gave birth to the Renaissance.  And since Florence at the time was an independent city-state ruled by a Council, these folks were indeed important figures.  A couple of them were widowers, and some were married with children.

One fine day in 1233 (August 15, to be specific – feast of the Assumption of Our Lady), while they were gathered in a church to pray the common devotions they had developed for their pious association called “Laudesi”, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to them.   She called them to leave behind their worldly affairs and dedicate themselves more completely to God.  This collective vision corroborated a desire that had been growing in their hearts individually for a long while.  And though it was difficult (emotionally as well as logistically) for some of them to arrange for the welfare of their families and leave them behind, they obeyed the summons within a month, and retired to a friary outside the city.  Later they relocated to a more remote little mountain where they built a monastery.

For seven years they lived in community there, the simplest of lives, in prayer and meditation, turning away all would-be followers.  A visit from some ecclesiastical superiors, however, opened them up to the possibility of founding an Order in the Church.  This was further encouraged by a second apparition of the Blessed Virgin, on Good Friday in 1240, when she appeared to them holding a black habit and accompanied by an angel bearing a scroll with the Rule of St Augustine.  She explained that they were to start a new Congregation dedicated to spreading Christ’s Kingdom by devotion to his Passion and to her Sorrows.

Thus began one of the most remarkable religious families in the history of the Church.  Its growth was prodigious, as it spread out into masculine and feminine branches, took up various apostolates, and quickly started to bear abundant fruits of holiness wherever it took root.

Of course, I don’t mean to say that you should wait until you have some kind of supernatural vision before you make a vocational decision, but I do mean to say that vocations come from Above.  God’s invitations can only be heard by hearts tuned to his will through a healthy prayer life and the practice of virtue.  So don’t tell me that you are “discerning” unless you are working humbly and systematically on your spiritual life.  If you say you’re discerning, but you’re not working, I won’t believe you, and you won’t get very far at all.  Nevertheless, I am still glad to be

Your concerned uncle,


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