Seven Holy Founders

Today’s (optional) feast day is for the Seven Founders of the Order of the Servites (also known as the “Servants of Mary”). Since it’s an optional memorial, and I didn’t really know anything about these saints or have a particular devotion to them, I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated it before.

However, a friend reminded me of the fact that we had visited a Servite basilica in Chicago, and of an interesting image there. First, the photo, then the explanation.

Click to enlarge. Photo taken by me in August 2012 (in poor light conditions with a highly overrated camera that I didn’t like).

Here we see, in the beautiful and imposing Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago (run by the Servite order), the altar in the left transept, which features not only a polychrome statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but statues of the Seven Holy Founders beneath it. This grouping of statues represents the vision that the seven men had of the Blessed Mother, which led to their founding the order of the Servites. Read more about the Seven Holy Founders here in this brief article.

That is all nice – and beautiful – but the real reason why I took this photograph was because of the rather garish mural behind the altar. Pictured is Pope Pius XII, of happy memory, “crowning” the church (so he must have been the one who raised the church to the dignity of basilica). And – even worse – to one side there is a Swiss Guard bearing an American flag! But really. This is a very fine example of kitschy, pious Catholic americana!

But not very fine art. I’ll take that altar and its statues any day.

Unfortunately, the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows is now in a rather bad part of town, the area having changed a great deal over the last decades; it is now far from its glory days, when the likes of Archbishop Fulton Sheen famously preached there and filmed a solemn high Mass, which is still available on video, as a means of catechizing on the liturgy. It’s even a bit difficult to visit – it took me two visits to Chicago to figure out how to get inside (hint: a door on the front of the building that is connected to the right side of the church; tell them that you want to see it and they should show you to it). But if you ever have a chance to see this basilica in person, it would be worth it. In any event, there is no shortage of beautiful churches to see in Chicago besides this one.

A wide shot of the enormous basilica’s interior, with its impressive coffered ceiling.

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