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February 17

Saint of the day:

The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order

The Story of the Seven Founders of the Servite Order

Can you imagine seven prominent men of Boston or Denver banding together, leaving their homes and professions, and going into solitude for a life directly given to God? That is what happened in the cultured and prosperous city of Florence in the middle of the 13th century. The city was torn with political strife as well as the heresy of the Cathari, who believed that physical reality was inherently evil. Morals were low and religion seemed meaningless.

In 1240, seven noblemen of Florence mutually decided to withdraw from the city to a solitary place for prayer and direct service of God. Their initial difficulty was providing for their dependents, since two were still married and two were widowers.

Their aim was to lead a life of penance and prayer, but they soon found themselves disturbed by constant visitors from Florence. They next withdrew to the deserted slopes of Monte Senario.

In 1244, under the direction of St. Peter of Verona, O.P., this small group adopted a religious habit similar to the Dominican habit, choosing to live under the Rule of St. Augustine and adopting the name of the Servants of Mary. The new Order took a form more like that of the mendicant friars than that of the older monastic Orders.

Members of the community came to the United States from Austria in 1852 and settled in New York and later in Philadelphia. The two American provinces developed from the foundation made by Father Austin Morini in 1870 in Wisconsin.

Community members combined monastic life and active ministry. In the monastery, they led a life of prayer, work and silence while in the active apostolate they engaged in parochial work, teaching, preaching, and other ministerial activities.,_Florence

Saints who founded the order:

  1. Buonfiglio Monaldi

  2. Alexis Falconieri 

  3. John Buonagiunta Monetti

  4. Benedict dell’Antella 

  5. Bartholomew degli Amidei 

  6. Gherardino Sostegni

  7. Hugh dei Lippi-Uguccioni





God of mercy,

you inspired the Seven Holy Founders with the will to follow Christ in radical poverty and humility. Through their intercession grant that we, too, walk always in your presence and remain faithful to the spirit of the Gospel and our Christian calling. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.



The Seven promptly founded the Ordo fratrum Servorum Beatae Mariae Virginis, the Servite Friars, or Servants of Mary. Servites make solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as instructed by Mary, following the Rule of Saint Augustine. Their mission is to sanctify all men through devotion to the Mother of God, especially in her desolation during the Passion of her Divine Son. The Servites give missions, have the care of souls, or teach in higher institutions of learning. Given their devotion to the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin, the Rosary of the Seven Dolors (or Sorrows) is a common devotion within the order. During this devotion, one meditates on the seven moments of suffering enduring by the Blessed Virgin during the life of Jesus:


1. The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus during the
         Presentation in the Temple. (Luke 2:34) 
2. The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. (Matthew 2:13) 
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days, and the
       finding of Him in the Temple. (Luke 2:43) 
4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary while He carried His cross. (Luke 23:26) 
5. The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross. (John 19:25) 
6. The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead
       body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57) 
7. The Burial of Jesus. (John 19:40) 



The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation)





Schiacciata Bread

Originally cooked in the ashes of the hearth, schiacciata, which means "squashed," is usually about an inch thick. Variations of the bread are made throughout Italy; Tuscans simply brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt. Sometimes they add herbs or make a sweet version with grapes and sugar. Remember that bread doughs can have different consistencies depending on the climate: This one should be soft, but not too sticky. Add more flour if it feels too wet.


  • 1 cup lukewarm water (90°F to 100°F)

  • 2 1/4-ounce packages dry yeast or two 0.6-ounce packages fresh yeast, crumbled

  • 2 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt


  1. Pour 1 cup lukewarm water into small bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes.
  2. Place 2 cups flour in large bowl. Make well in center of flour. Pour yeast mixture into well. Using fork, stir until dough comes together. Knead in bowl, adding enough flour 1/4 cup at a time to form slightly sticky dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Coat bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Add dough; turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm draft-free area until doubled, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

  3. Brush 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom or baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down dough. Turn out onto floured work surface and shape into 11-inch round. Transfer dough to prepared tart pan or baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic. Let rise until dough is almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Press fingertips into dough, creating indentations. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden, about 28 minutes. Cool bread in pan on rack 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan; cool completely.

Pappardelle with Cinghiale sauce


  • 1 lb pappardelle (or other wide ribbon pasta)


For the Marinade:

  • 1 1/2 cups red wine

  • 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 3 sprigs rosemary

  • Salt and pepper


For the Sauce:

  • 1 lb wild boar (shoulder or loin)

  • 1 onion

  • 1 stalk celery

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 6 oz pancetta

  • 1 cup red wine

  • 1 1/2 lbs tomatoes (or 1 28 +oz.can peeled tomatoes)

  • 6 oz tomato paste


  1. For the Marinade: Place the boar into a bowl large enough to hold it, plus 3 cups liquid. Add the red wine and red wine vinegar, the garlic (chopped or crushed), the rosemary and some salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

  2. For the Sauce:

  3. If using fresh tomatoes, blanche them in boiling water, and then immediately place in cold water. Remove the skins and seeds. Place them in a blender or food mill until puree.

  4. Remove the boar from the marinade and cut into small pieces. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the boar. Cook it over a medium heat for a few minutes until it renders liquid. Remove from heat and place the boar in a colander so that the liquid drips away.

  5. Dice the onion, celery and garlic and pancetta into small pieces. In a large pot, saute the onion and celery in olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic and the pancetta and cook until lightly golden. Add the boar and stir for a minute or two, and then add the red wine. After a couple of minutes, add the tomato puree, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 hours, stirring regularly, until thickened. (If too thick, add a bit of water or beef broth.)

  6. Cook the pappardelle until al dente, drain it and add it to the boar sauce. Heat for a couple of minutes and serve immediately, sprinkled with Parmigiano.

Schiacciata Fiorentina

Although the name reminds you of the salty bread mentioned above, this is actually the name of a sweet Florentine cake. Rectangular in shape, this soft, spongy yellow cake is made in one flat layer, covered in powdered sugar, and is easily identified by the large fleur-de-lys stenciled in cocoa powder on top. Traditionally eaten more around the time of Carnivale, this cake can be found in just about every bakery in the city at any given time of year and it has become a staple of Florentine desserts.

At this time of the year there's no avoiding it – you can't go past a pastry shop in Florence without noticing the windows are filled with large, flat, powdered sugar-dusted cakes known as schiacciata alla fiorentina. The scent of orange peel and vanilla wafts through the cold, late winter air, inevitably leading you right in to the nearest pasticceria for a slice of schiacciata and a coffee. Traditionally served plain, but sometimes filled with slightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream or pastry cream, they're instantly recognisable for the giglio, the stylised lily and symbol of the city of Florence, masked and dusted over the top in contrasting powdered cocoa. 

Schiacciata means 'squashed' or 'flattened' and usually refers to Florence's savoury salt and olive oil drenched focaccia or flat bread. But in this occasion, like their schiacciata all'uva (grape bread), the word not only refers to something flat (it should never be taller than 1 inch), but also to something sweet and strictly seasonal. 

This yeasted cake has long been a tradition of Carnival season and is a centuries old recipe of peasant origins. With its typical ingredients including lard (today, though not the same, often olive oil or butter replaces this), eggs and a long rising time using fresh yeast, it would have been a simple, but hearty and caloric country cake. It's directly related, in fact, to the unappealingly but aptly named, schiaccata unta (“greasy schiacciata”), which at one time included ciccioli – pieces of deep fried pork fat. 

Today's schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a delicately scented, fluffy, not too sweet cake. The characteristic flavor, marked by orange zest, and incredibly soft, spongy texture, make it a favorite for a mid-morning or afternoon snack or even breakfast (well, why not?). It also goes down quite nicely with a glass of vin santo or dessert wine. 

Although it requires a lot of rising time, it's a simple preparation and easy to do at home, even if these days, Florentines, will usually buy this out at their favourite pastry shop. 

You could leave it simple with just a dusting of powdered sugar. But note that the hint of bittersweet cocoa goes so well with the subtle orange scent of this cake, you'll want to offer the slice that has the lily on it to your favorite person. Or, do what I do (to make it fair): I put the layer of cocoa on the bottom to cover the entire cake. Then I mask out the lily shape with a paper cut out that I cut myself and I cover the whole cake in a very generous dusting of powdered sugar. It means everyone gets a bite with cocoa on it, even if the easier and more traditional way would be simply to dust with only powdered sugar, then, with a empty lily cut out (this time rather than use a lily shape, use the empty stencil of the lily) carefully dust a cocoa lily onto the cake.

  • 2 1/2cups (300 grams) plain flour

  • 3/4ounce (20 grams) fresh yeast dissolved in some warm water

  • 3 1/2ounces (100 grams) lard (or, less traditional, butter)

  • 1/2cup (100 grams) sugar

  • 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks

  • Zest of 1 orange

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1teaspoon vanilla

  • Powdered sugar for dusting

  • Powdered bittersweet cocoa for dusting (optional)


  1. In a bowl, combine the flour and fresh yeast (along with the water) until you have a dough. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm, dry spot to rise for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.

  2. Beat in the lard, sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla and salt until well combined. Place the dough in a buttered rectangular tin. It should be about 2cm or 2/3 inch in height. Cover with a tea towel and let the schiacciata rise for 2 more hours.

  3. Bake at 350 ºF (180ºC) for 30 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack to cool and when cooled completely, dust liberally with powdered sugar.

  4. If you like, cut out a mask of the Florentine lily and dust with cocoa powder. If desired, cut through the middle of the cake and fill with some slightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream, pastry cream or diplomat cream (half pastry cream, half whipped cream) before dusting with powdered sugar.

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