Building Up the Knights
The following letter to the student president of the MI in Rome was written six months after Father Maximilian returned to Poland from Rome where he had completed his theological studies. The MI was then little more than two years old. Father Maximilian here further develops the principles which must govern all authentic growth of the MI movement.
TO FRIAR JOHN GARLEANU, PRESIDENT OF THE MI AT
THE INTERNATIONAL SERAPHIC COLLEGE IN ROME
Krakow, Jan. 17, 1920
Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Francis
Although I am short of time, I must answer you as soon as possible, at least briefly.
The letter you sent was a great consolation to us; I say "to us," for I immediately had it translated orally into Polish for the benefit of the rest of the clerics (1) who are members of the MI.
The Immaculata is building up "her Knights movement" among us continuously. No doubt, you have already received the small certificate printed in Polish. Recently we received the blessing of the Bishop of Riga (Latvia) written in Polish which can be translated as follows: "May God bless the holy endeavors of the Knights of the Immaculata movement and may the Mother of God (our Lady) assist it with her intercession and protection. +Edward O'Rourke, Bishop of Riga." We have also received a blessing from the Bishop of Krakow, which translated from Polish goes like this: "With all our hearts we bless the members of the Knights of the Immaculata movement; fighting under the banner of the Mother of God (Our Lady) may it help the Church bring the whole world to the feet of Jesus. +Adam Sapieha."
This bishop is known for the difficulty with which he approves anything new. Very Rev. Fr. Provincial also wrote me in Polish on Dec. 27, 1919: "Please do propagate the Knights of the Immaculata movement and publish its bylaws after, of course, notifying Father Guardian." After receiving on Jan. 11, 1920 the small printed certificate and information about the MI's progress, he again wrote (in Polish): "I am very pleased that you, Father, have so sincerely dedicated yourself to the movement of the Knights and I hope that soon you will launch an offensive all along the line in Greater, Little and Central Poland (names of parts of Poland), and in Latvia, and perhaps along other fronts, in the defense of formal religious veneration of the Immaculata."
As a result I am sure that I am guided by obedience, and therefore, by the will of our Mother and Queen, and so I pay no attention to the ridicule or difficulties which, indeed, have to be present from other sources.
We have already more than 200 (2) persons enrolled as first degree members.
Concerning MI history, Friar Girolamo knows much of it, and since he will most likely have some free time now, you could get more information from him. I will mention here only this: the "Knights of the Immaculata movement" originated during the summer vacation of 1917. At first there was no fixed program. What united the first members was the more or less explicit desire of each to dedicate himself totally to the Immaculata as an instrument in her hands for saving souls (especially Masons) and for sanctifying them. After the first bylaws were written, upon the encouragement of Rev. Fr. Alessandro Basile, S.J., and with the permission of Rev. Fr. Rector Stefano Ignudi, the first seven members met in the room of Friar Antonio Mansi in order to discuss the bylaws and give them their final shape. For an entire year, however, the matter remained uncertain and unsettled. But when two members (Fr. Anthony Glowinski, on Oct. 18, 1918, and Friar Antonio Mansi, on Oct. 31, 1918) went to heaven, the bylaws were confirmed immediately and membership increased.
On March 28, 1919, his Excellency Bishop Dominique Jaquet during his personal audience with Pope Benedict XV requested and obtained a blessing for the "Society of the Blessed and Immaculate Mary existing among the students of the Seraphic College." He presented no bylaws and received just a general blessing. A week later, on April 4, 1919, our Most Rev. Vicar General, Fr. Domenico M. Tavani, after thoroughly examining the aim, the means, and the growth of the Knights movement personally wrote the following blessing: "Most willingly we bless you and hope that the most Blessed and Immaculate Virgin, the Patroness of our Order, will foster and protect this holy movement of Knights with her motherly protection and generous blessing. Fr. Domenico M. Tavani, Vicar General."
At that time the Most Rev. Father General (3) expressed the wish that the members of the MI increase in number and that MI be introduced and developed in our colleges.
I'm concluding this since you know the rest. Fr. Cyril Kita, too, is now one of us.
As regards amendments, let the general bylaws remain as they were approved and blessed by the Most Rev. Father General. Another remark, however, could be added to the NB (as NB 2) such as is found in the Polish certificate. The Polish NB is translated thus: "Nothing is binding under pain of even the least sin; our only motive is love (without limits) for the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus so that we might unite to him as closely as possible through the Immaculata all the souls we can." The words without limits do not appear in the Polish text because they were deleted by the episcopal censor at Krakow. If they get through the censor at Rome they can be inserted. Also it would be better to put the words, " allow me to praise you", etc. after the Act of Consecration (as it is in the Polish Certificate). On the other hand, the Act itself, since it has already been printed in Polish and officially approved by the bishop, should not be changed; only grammatical errors should be corrected; hence it will read as follows:
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An Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate
O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, N . . ., an unworthy sinner, cast myself at your feet humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.
Even now, if it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: "She will crush your head," and, "You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world." Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise you O Sacred Virgin.
R. Give me strength against your enemies.
You could, for the sake of mere grammatical corrections, show this Act to Very Rev. Father d'Avoli, (4) as I did with the general bylaws before receiving the blessing of Most Rev. Father General.
If you can get the certificate printed in Rome without any difficulty, do that as soon as possible (if the superiors deem it proper, of course); otherwise write to me immediately.
As regards norms for all particular bylaws, namely, those for second degree members of the MI (MI-2), the following are to be observed: 1 ) particular bylaws are based on Chapter III, paragraph 2 of the general bylaws; 2) all public acts of the organization receive their effectiveness from the approval of the group's Protector who is always the immediate relative Church official (in the case of members of religious communities, it is their lawful superior), since it is in obedience that MI members perceive the orders of their Mother and Queen. Public acts are: the writing or changing of specific bylaws, elections in case a democratic system is followed, decrees, etc.
This will be enough for now since I'm short of time. From this Father Rector (5) should know what constitutes the MI and what kind of external affairs it has. All of this is found in the remarks.
Therefore let everything, whether interior matters of conscience or public acts, be done according to the demands of obedience. And since new ideas usually come to one's mind little by little and then develop, they are in the beginning generally matters of grace and conscience subject to the approval of a spiritual director. When we have become certain of the will of our Queen from this source, then, if the matter is something external as it almost always is in group affairs, we will discern whether she wants it here and now from the approval or disapproval of the Protector.
It will also be a good thing to praise MI-1 members for seeking the advice and permission of their spiritual director; to recommend this practice to the second degree MI (especially the youth); and to require it of the third degree members always. (6)
Would it be opportune to change your particular bylaws from a monarchical to a democratic form as it is in Krakow? After consulting your spiritual director, find out what the Most Rev. Father Rector wants, inasmuch as he is the Protector (in virtue of his office as Superior). And do as the Immaculata will inspire you for her greatest possible victory. I have written too much, so even if I didn't mention everything, for now let this suffice.
Once again I thank Father Dominic for his letter; and please tell him that the matter about which I wrote previously was dealt with after confession on the way to Santa Maria. (The following paragraph Fr. M.K. wrote in Italian). I don't know the mind of our heavenly Mother, but perhaps the MI will grow greatly among us. Say a little prayer for poor me that I may cooperate better with God's graces received through the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Excuse my disorderly scribbling.
Regards to all of you Knights of the MI from our MI Today we have a special meeting. Friar Alphonse will give a lecture titled "Faith and Reason."
Let us work and suffer for our Immaculate Mother and souls.
Your brother in our Holy Father Francis and fellow Knight in the Immaculata,
Friar Maximilian M. Kolbe, M.I.
Sunday, Jan. 11, we held a conference pertaining to the MI. The hall was full. We distributed about 400 printed small certificates which new members are to fill out and present to a priest (having authority to accept them) in order to get his signature.
Where is Friar Girolamo staying? I'm sending him my best. Let him keep "poor Max" in his prayers.
Regards to Father Lelii.
I kiss Rev. Father Rector's hands; my sincere regards to him.
We would like to know the names of the new members of the MI.
(1) Maximilian was a professor at the Major Seminary of the Franciscan Fathers in Krakow, where the MI was organized.
(2) The roll book of the MI for 1919-1922 shows that the members given the numbers 60 through 200 included the Poor Clares of Krakow (33 persons) and the soldiers of the officer training center in Przemsyl (10 persons).
(3) Fr. Domenico Tavani, the acting superior general.
(4) Father d'Avoli was a professor at the International Seraphic College in Rome.
5Fr. Stefano Ignudi.
(6) Fr. Alphonse Kolbe states in his "Notes about MI-3": "In Rome . . . only those were accepted who got the approval of their spiritual director . . . and their set up was monarchical to a high degree."