November 02, 2017
District of the USA
October 16, 2017 was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Militia Immaculatæ (M.I.) by St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, OFM.
Called the Knights of the Immaculata in the United States, the institution’s aim is to labor under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary to convert sinners, heretics, schismatics, Jews, and the enemies of the Church, especially Freemasons. Missionary and vigorous, the M.I. is a Catholic reaction to modern attacks on the Church and on souls, a spiritual army whose purpose and methods are entirely in accord with the commission of Fatima.
With World War I (1914-1918) and the socialist-driven Russian revolution (1917) much on everyone’s mind, in 1917 Catholics in Rome were also troubled by the theater of large numbers of fanatical Freemasons who descended on the city to publicize the bicentennial of the founding of their clandestine fraternity. The event was replete with anti-Catholic pamphlets, flags, and posters. These were borne by large processions of Masons who wound their way through the streets of the Eternal City en route to St. Peter’s Square while singing blasphemous songs and carrying banners that bore the words, “Satan must reign in the Vatican. The Pope will be his slave.”
Brother Maximilian Kolbe witnessed these odious provocations with abhorrence. The young Polish Franciscan asked himself, “Is it possible that our enemies should make such a display of force in order to defeat us, while we fold our hands in our laps and do nothing?” The young friar courageously rose to the challenge, saying, “Do we not have much more powerful weapons; can we not count on all of Heaven, and especially on the Immaculata?” He promptly occupied himself much with prayer, meditating for long hours on the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, and the teachings of the Marian saints, especially St. Louis de Montfort. He gave great attention to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.
The outcome of his pious efforts was the idea of founding a Knighthood of the Immaculata whose emblem would be the Miraculous Medal. The inspiration was the 1842 conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a French Jewish banker who, by graces obtained through the Miraculous Medal, converted to the Catholic Faith and was ordained a Jesuit priest.
At the International College of the Franciscan Fathers, Br. Maximilian persuaded several friars to join him. After receiving permission in Rome, Br. Maximilian knelt with six of his confreres before Our Lady’s altar in the chapel of the Seraphic College in the Eternal City and founded the Militia Immaculatæ on October 16th, 1917 – providentially, a mere three days after the miracle of the sun in Fatima, though news of those events had not yet reached Rome. They dedicated themselves to evangelizing the world with a special emphasis on the total consecration to Mary.
The M.I spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart through the Miraculous Medal. One year after the Militia’s founding, Pope Benedict XV bestowed on it his Apostolic Blessing. In 1922, the same Pope approved the M.I. as a Pia Unio, or pious association; that same year, Fr. Maximilian published the first issue of the magazine Knight of the Immaculata. In 1927 Pope Pius XI elevated the M.I. to a Pia Unio Primaria, allowing it to found branches in all locales. Soon after, Fr. Maximilian founded Niepokalanów – “The City of the Immaculata” – with 18 brothers near Warsaw, Poland. In 1930 he established a second complex called Mugenzai no Sono – “Garden of the Immaculata” – in Nagasaki, Japan, where he soon began publishing Seibo no Kishi, a Japanese edition of Knight of the Immaculate.
After several years in Asia, Fr. Maximilian returned to Niepokalanów. The M.I. increased its use of modern printing techniques to publish religious works. In 1938 a shortwave radio station was begun. By 1939 Niepokalanów numbered 762 zealous religious brothers. They published eleven periodicals, including a daily newspaper with 230,000 subscribers. Knight of the Immaculata, meanwhile, had become a monthly magazine published in several languages and with a press run of over one million for its Polish edition. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world were consecrated to Jesus through Mary.
The outbreak of World War II was devastating to Niepokalanów. Many of the brothers were killed, some of them in concentration camps. Fr. Maximilian was briefly arrested and then released, resuming his work in the monastery which had also become a make-shift hospital and a haven to war refugees. The Germans finally shut down the community in February of 1941 when Fr. Maximilian published anti-Nazi works. In May Fr. Maximilian became prisoner #16670 at the Auschwitz death camp, where he was cruelly beaten for being a priest.
In July three prisoners escaped from the camp. The Nazi commander sentenced 10 men to death by starvation as an example to the remaining prisoners. One of the condemned men cried, "My wife! My children!" Fr. Maximilian volunteered to take the grieving man’s place. For two weeks the condemned were starved, slowly dying in turn; through the ordeal Fr. Maximilian stood or knelt in the middle of the cell and led the prisoners in hymns and prayers to the Immaculata. At last only Fr. Maximilian remained alive, and the guards gave him a lethal injection of carbolic acid. His remains were cremated the next day on August 15, the feast the Assumption.
The cell today at Auschwitz where St. Maximilian Kolbe and the other prisoners were starved
The M.I. continued its growth following Fr. Maximilian’s death. By the 1960s there were 500 affiliates on five continents and more than three million members. After the Second Vatican Council, however, the M.I. was modernized, causing it to lose its militant and missionary spirit and leading to a precipitous decline in activity and members.
There the M.I. would have languished, but on May 6, 2000, it was revived by Fr. Karl Stehlin, superior of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X in Poland with the permission of the Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay. With renewed vigor, membership grew again year after year. By 2016 there were 16,000 traditional knights worldwide, and by the time of the August 2017 SSPX pilgrimage to Fatima in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, membership was approaching 100,000 souls.
The Army of the Immaculate One has been restored, and its members are full of the zeal and charity of its founder, St. Maximilian Kolbe, offering many prayers and making sacrifices to win souls for Christ through the Immaculate Heart of His Blessed Mother.
Degrees of the Militia Immaculatæ
St. Maximilian wrote of three degrees of the M.I.
Individual Action: Each one consecrates himself to the Immaculata and endeavors to realize the purpose of the Militia individually, according to his own circumstances and the rules of prudence.
Public and Social Apostolate: The Knights bind themselves by special statutes and programs. They unite their forces to reach their declared goal more quickly and effectively.
Heroism: The third degree consists in an unlimited devotion to the Immaculata. Thus she can do with us what she wills and as she wills. We belong entirely to her and she belongs entirely to us. We do everything with her help, we live and work under her protection.
Original Statutes of the Militia Immaculatæ
The means outlined by St. Maximilian Kolbe are recommended only as suggestions and are not of obligation; not one of them obliges under pain of sin, not even venial sin. The principal motive is to help the greatest possible number of souls to be united with the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the mediation of the Immaculata.
Object: To work for the conversion to God of all men, be they sinners, heretics, schismatics, Jews, etc., in particular the Freemasons; and that all become saints, under the patronage and through the mediation of the Immaculate Virgin.
(I) To consecrate oneself entirely to the Immaculate Virgin, placing oneself freely as a docile and generous instrument in Her hands.
(II) To wear the Miraculous Medal.
(I) If possible, to pray the following ejaculation at least once a day: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee, and for all those who do not have recourse to Thee, especially for the Masons and for all those who are commended to Thee.”
(II) To use all other valid and legitimate means for the conversion and sanctification of men, according to one’s means, in the different states and conditions of life, as the occasions present themselves; this is entrusted to the zeal and prudence of each one. Particularly recommended, however, is spreading the Miraculous Medal.
Joining the Militia Immaculatæ
Any priest of the Society of Saint Pius X can perform the ceremony of enrollment for joining the M.I. One officially becomes a “Knight of the Immaculata” after the priest signs and registers the certificate of membership at the M.I. headquarters. You can contact the headquarters of the traditional M.I. at firstname.lastname@example.org