Cradle of the Order of the Servants of Mary
Our Lady wanted to give origin to her Order with seven men to show to everybody, with absolute clarity, that she wanted to adorn her Order, endowing it with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit"
“These same seven men founded the community of Monte Senario. After a few centuries, people called these holy men “Our Lady chose to begin with a group of seven. they were: Bonfiglio, Amadio, Buonagiunta, Manetto, Sostegno, Uguccione and Alessio. It was to convince everyone that she wished her Order endowed in a special way with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It was to make clear that down through the ages she would keep it alive, as one generation followed another each with a number of men rich in these seven gifts of the spirit. Some of them decided to observe virginity or chastity for life and so remained unmarried; others were already were already married and the rest were widowers.”
The Seven Holy Fathers at Monte Senario
On the 12th of June1241, Giuliano from Bivigliano, who belonged to the family of the Ubaldinis, donated the third part of a certain forest situated on the Monte Asinario in order "to save his soul".
The name of the Mountain
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, this mountain was called in various ways. “This mountain was called Sonario. This name comes from the sonorous effect of the wind through some of its caves. At first it was calles Monte Sonaio, although th eword was soon corrupted by many of the local people into Asinario. It was this mountain that God inspired our fathers to seek”. Around 1245, the Seven first Fathers went up the mountain in order to get away from the political struggles and other distractions of secular life, under the guidance of Bishop Ardingo († 1247).
A delightful level area on the top of the hill surrounded by a grove of trees
By the grace of God, the Seven holy Fathers found Monte Senario with the help of bishop Ardingo. "This mountain is higher than the others around it and so even from far off they saw it as the mountain intended for them by God. When they went up to inspect it, they found at the top a delightful though small level area, a spring of very fine water off to one side and a surrounding grove of trees so well-arranged that it might have been planted by hand (L.O. 41).
This description points out an ecological sensibility. In fact, the Seven fathers and their successors in the history, had a great love for the nature.
“They went up the mountain and at the top immediately constructed a small house suitable to live in. Abandoning the house they had previously had in Florence, they moved up to the mountain to live there together.
The mountain of virtues
Such place was worthwhile to the Seven Fathers:
"It was very appropriate, this Monte Senario, as God’s choice of dwelling place for our first fathers. The place itself matched their spiritual ascent and the name the sound they effected. First, the place was a reflection of their own spiritual ascent. In the beginning they had been in the valley of tears; there they were cleansed through contrition, made clean and fit for the ascent. In this valley they prepared their hearts to move up higher. After their conversion, they came up to the plain of good morals, where the anointing of the Holy Spirit taught them everything they needed to know. They became men of meekness and walked this plain, this house of God, in integrity of heart. They then came to reside in the hills of virtue, where they ate and were refreshed by all kinds of spiritual food. Filled in this way with heavenly gifts, they could say, “Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear” [Psalm 26(27).3]. And now, finally, it was fitting that they ascend the mountain to stand watch in contemplation. There they would be enlightened, filled with the spirit of wisdom and understanding and surrounded by the sweet odor of heaven’s joy.”
As nobody had ever lived in the thick forest around the mountain, they faced many difficulties in climbing up the mountain. Climbing up the mountain, even though they were carrying with them the burden of their own weaknesses and the memories of their past life, they trusted in the Lord, remembering the word of God: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt. 11:28-30). Having abandoned everything, offering themselves to do the will of God, they enjoyed the fruits of God’s gifts. And thus Monte Senario was indeed a mountain of virtues.
Stories of the Senario
From time to time, wars, earthquakes and epidemics endangered the life of Monte Senario but the loving providence of God has saved our friars so that they could continue their life in this sacred place. The friars who were already in good number were almost always engaged themselves in prayer and work. Thus the life-style of the friars continued in the following centuries. In the sixteenth century, wars and natural calamities severely struck the life over there. But in the year 1593, the religious life blossomed again with such vigor that the Senario became once more a symbol of spiritual resumption for the whole Order. The fame of the holiness of the friars spread in various places (as in Austria). And they opened new priories. It is said that the Pope, asked by Granduca in Tuscany, sent St. Giovanni Leonardi († 1609) to Monte Senario as a visitor and after visiting the St. Giovanni Leonardi reported to the Pope that Monte Senario was a place of holiness the friars living there were great example for the whole Church. The church of Mountain Senario damaged by natural disasters underwent many restorations. On the 21st of September 1621 the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Assumption; On the 4th of April 1717 the Church was consecrated and devoted to Phillip Benizi and to the Virgin Mary of sorrows. By now the Church of Monte Senario had reached the actual dimensions of today. In the period of the Napoleon, the priory was suppressed (1808); Valuable arts and precious books were removed. In the year 1866 the suppression of the religious Orders by the Italian Government again paralyzed the life of the priory. Monte Senario began to recover its normal life in 1870. A few after this rebirth, the seven first fathers were proclaimed saints in 1888. From then on the Priory at Monte Senario began to flourish again with a new life. On the 15th of 1918 the Pope Benedict XV announced the church of Monte Senario as a Minor Basilica.
“Every friar Servant of Mary considers Monte Senario a holy place and looks on it as the birth place and spiritual home of the Order. The basilica, containing the memory of the origins of the Order and the bodies of the Seven Founders, demonstrates to all Servites what kind of life their should be; austere and penitent, illustrious and prayerful, hospitable and fraternal, hidden in God and solicitous of the needs of others. The basilica of Monte Senario and all the churches dedicated to Saint Mary in the Order, remind Servites, by symbols and images, of a number of things: first of all, that they dedicated to serve the Mother of Christ and that their life and apostolic activity are placed under the patronage of our Lady; that all servite churches should witness to the devotion of the Church and the Order toward the Mother of God; finally, that Servites should make of themselves a holy temple of God just as the Virgin Mary, in accepting the Word of the Lord in her immaculate heart and virginal womb, was made the exalted dwelling place of God.” (Liturgy of the Hours OSM, Dedication of the Basilica of Monte Senario, Office of the Readings, second letter).