The Ideals and Program of
The Knights of the Immaculata
(International Latin name: Militia Immaculatae or "MI")
in the words of its Founder
(translated by Fr. Bernard Geiger, OFM CONV.)
The following is a translation of an article written in Latin by
Fr. Maximilian M. Kolbe, OFM CONV. It was published in a brochure for
distribution among priests by Niepokalanow in 1938.
I. A SHORT HISTORY OF THE KNIGHTS
The Knights of the Immaculata (initials: MI, from the international Latin name, Militia Immaculatae) do not as a society enjoy the prestige of antiquity; rather, they began in the year l917 in the International College of the Friars Minor Conventual in Rome.
On January 2, l922 the MI acquired juridical status in the church as "Pious Union" by the decree of Cardinal Pompili.
This decree reads as follows:
"Basil Cardinal Pompili - by the Mercy of God, Bishop of Veltiri - Archpriest of the Most Holy Patriarchal, Lateran Basilica - Vicar General of our Holy Father the Pope - Ordinary Judge of the Roman Curia and its District - Desiring to foster proper appreciation, practical acceptance and persevering loyalty to the Most Blessed Virgin, we, by our Ordinary Authority canonically set up and declare established the holy association called in the vernacular the Holy Union of the Knights of Mary Immaculate in the Oratory of the Collegio Serafico of the Friars Minor Conventual in Rome.
"Given at the Vicariate, January 2, 1922, Basil Cardinal, Vicar."
Four years later, December 18, l926, the Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, issued a Brief, in which he granted many indulgences to the members of the MI. On April 23, l927, the same Supreme Pontiff by a new and special brief raised the Knights to the dignity of a Primary Union.
What is the purpose of the Knights? What conditions does it lay down for its members? What means does it use?
The purpose of the Knights is contained in these words: to do all you can for the conversion of sinners, heretics, schismatics and so on, above all the Masons, and for the sanctification of all persons under the sponsorship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Mediatrix. This work has this aim: to bring within reach of all persons the happiness that comes from the presence of God, the first source of all happiness. It is to be done under the protective care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix.
We all know very well that God has made the Immaculate Virgin the Mediatrix of all graces. Now no one is converted or sanctified without divine graces. The grace of God by working with each person in line with his own unique, human characteristics achieves conversion and growth in holiness. For this reason no one can be converted or sanctified without the help of the Immaculate Virgin, the Mother of Divine Grace. Rather, the more a person draws close to this Stewardess of God's gifts, the more abundantly he will receive these gifts, the more easily he will grow in holiness, and work for his neighbor's growth in holiness. For this reason it is right to have our efforts in helping people achieve conversion and sanctity develop under the care of the Immaculate Mediatrix.
It is only right that whoever wishes to help his neighbor grow in sanctity should begin with himself. For this reason such a person must draw always nearer into the actual presence of the Immaculate Virgin, that he might receive the gifts of God from her. By means of these gifts of grace he will at each moment of his life be able to love God more perfectly.
Now the person most perfectly present to the Immaculate Virgin is he who gives himself totally to her to be her possession and property. Whence follows the first most essential condition, that you offer yourself totally to the Immaculata.
However, this kind of offering of oneself by no means requires that you leave the world and your family and enter a religious order. We can afterwards still take care of our honest affairs and the requirements of our status. Nevertheless from the time that we have offered ourselves as a holocaust to the Immaculata, it is not we who offer our daily affairs to God; the Immaculata herself whose possession we have become is the one who presents them to him. Because, moreover, we and everything we have belongs to her, the Immaculate Virgin offers these affairs of ours to God not as ours but as her own.
Now the Immaculate Virgin could never offer anything to God that carries any stain on it. In her Immaculate hands everything that we do is made pure and immaculate, and takes on a greater value. Therefore when you enroll in the MI, knowing that you belong to the Immaculata, you as her child and property etc., seek more diligently to make your life more worthy of her every day inasmuch as you are her property and possession - in the strictest sense of the word.
Afterwards when you enjoy great strength to resist temptation, and you experience much reassurance in difficulties, you seek to share this happiness with others. You want to attract them to Mary, and gain their hearts for her.
And when you have become aware that the number of persons who do not even know Mary's name is very great, you feel upset and want to win the whole world for her. You desire to bring her into every heart that now beats or will beat on this earth, so that she might light up these hearts with a multitude of God's gifts, warm them with charity of her mother's heart, and ignite in them the fire of love for God and the Divine Heart of Jesus.
Nevertheless, seeing yourself unequal to so great a task, and that the Immaculate Virgin herself must act in you and through you, all the more you give yourself to Mary to be her possession as an instrument obedient to the Lord.
Whence follows the first and most essential condition, that we give ourselves to the Immaculate Virgin as instruments in her immaculate hands.
Another condition goes along with this, that we carry the Miraculous Medal. This latter condition, even though not essential, stands nevertheless as an external sign of our interior offering to Mary. This medal is commonly called "miraculous," and indeed it has brought about the conversion of many. The Immaculata is committed unceasingly to seek graces without number for those who carry it with faith and reverence. It has been in existence since l820. The Immaculate Virgin herself graciously revealed it to St. Catherine Laboure, a novice in the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Paris. The innumerable graces received by means of it prove the revelation a true one.
To belong to the MI officially and to be able to gain the indulgences granted to its members, the following are necessarily required: that you be baptized, that you belong to the Catholic Church, that you take care to have your name and surname registered in the book of the MI association where it has a canonically established center.
The ordinary means by which the good of souls is fostered consists in good example, prayer, work, and patience in bearing with pain. By good example our neighbors are drawn; by prayer, sacrifice of oneself and patience, divine graces are won; by external work the project is completed unless the person whom we want to win for Mary knowingly and deliberately resists the gentle workings of divine grace.
Therefore, the MI uses any and all means as long as they are honorable and effective for achieving its purpose.
In regard to prayer, those who have enrolled themselves in the association should take care to pray to the Immaculate Virgin at least once each day with the prayer inscribed on the miraculous medal as follows: "O Mary conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to you, especially for the Masons and for those recommended to you." In this very brief little prayer, all those enrolled in the MI association and all persons wandering about in the whole world are included. What each one is able to achieve in souls for the glory of the Immaculate Virgin is left to the prudence and zeal of the individual member. Other Knights form special associations, elect officers, establish goals, work together and report on work accomplished. There is no obligation to belong to this kind of an association, but where the conditions of place and time call for them, such associations can be organized. Sometimes even other associations are affiliated or associated with the MI.
V. THE ESSENCE AND SPIRIT OF THE MI
The essence of the MI consists in this, that it is under the complete control of the Immaculata, unconditionally, with no limiting restrictions on her at all, irrevocably, that is, totally in every respect. So when you enroll yourself in the MI you become the possession of the Immaculate Virgin totally. By means of this you become in practice the property of Jesus, just as Mary herself is his property, and the more perfectly you belong to Mary the more perfectly you will belong to Jesus, but always through her, and this much more easily and perfectly. Through Jesus, then, you become the Father's possession. Therefore, the essence of the MI consists in this that we become always more and more the possession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.
It is called a "Militia" in Latin (meaning "combat") because those who enroll in it not only give themselves to the Immaculate Virgin but they also do all they can, and as diligently as they can to win others for her, both those now alive and those who will live in the future, as many as possible.
These things constitute the essence of the MI. Now what is its spirit like? The spirit of something is that which gives it life and makes it move. And so that is what the spirit of the MI will do. It will move all the associates of the MI to become always more perfectly the Knights of the Immaculata, always more perfectly her property and possession every day, always more enthusiastic to win the hearts of our neighbors for her. The more we are filled with this spirit the more we shall turn out to be Knights of the Immaculata.
To reassure now those persons who burn with religious enthusiasm and desire, it should be pointed out that the essence of the offering of ourselves to the Immaculate Virgin does not lie in thinking about her continually, but rather in our wills. And so a person who is busy with honorable affairs does not cease to be the property of the Immaculata along with his thoughts, words and works even though he is not thinking about this.
VI. INDULGENCES GRANTED TO THE MEMBERS OF THE MI
Indulgences granted to members of the MI are two kinds: plenary and partial. To gain the plenary indulgence a visit to a church and prayers for the intention of the Pope are required, along with confession and Holy Communion. Confession can be made within one week before or after the day on which the indulgence is to be gained; those however who habitually go to confession twice a month are not required to make another confession to gain the indulgence. Holy Communion can be taken on the day itself in which we can gain the plenary indulgence or on the vigil, or during the seven days following.
VII. HOW TO ENROLL IN THE MI
If you desire to enter the MI: 1) Choose an appropriate day for having your name enrolled in the MI and gaining the plenary indulgence; then notify a canonical center of the MI. 2) When you have received the Miraculous Medal and the certificate of enrollment, recite the act of consecration contained in it on the day chosen for the enrollment.
There is no obligation for members to send an offering of money, either on the day of enrollment or afterwards. Nevertheless each one can help foster the work of the Immaculata in the whole world by voluntary offerings.
I will consider myself happy if these few words should help unite many persons to our common spiritual mother and inspire them to help win an ever increasing number of hearts for her, and through her for the Sacred Heart of the Man-God, Jesus Christ.
Fr. Maximilian M. Kolbe