“WHAT’S IN A NAME?” asked Shakespeare.
The worldwide Militia Immaculatae movement has asked itself the same question. In North America it is known as the Knights of the Immaculata, in England and Australia the Crusade of Mary Immaculate, in the Philippines and India as the Militia of the Immaculata. In other English-speaking areas of the world it is known as the Militia of Mary Immaculate. A new Franciscan Order (The Franciscans of the Immaculate), speak of the Militia Immaculatae as the Missio Immaculatae Mediatrix (M.I.M.). All of these titles translate or adapt the original Latin title of the Marian evangelization movement founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1917 as the Militia Immaculatae.
Regardless of the variety of titles, the very name of the Militia Immaculatae signifies the movement’s two essential characteristics: 1) it is militant and 2) it is Marian. The name bespeaks a spiritual “Marian militancy” which St. Maximilian saw capable of transforming the world.
Militant vs. Militarist
The words of St. Maximilian himself offer a very revealing insight into “spiritual militancy.” Words such as “knight,” “militia,” and “battle,” sound bellicose, for they are associated with warfare—not necessarily a war fought with the help of rifles, bombs, rockets, tanks etc., but still, a real and true battle. But what is its tactic? Prayer above all and before all, is the effective weapon in the battle for the freedom and happiness of souls. Why? To attain a supernatural goal only supernatural means will be ultimately effective. Heaven—the divinization, so to speak, of souls—is something supernatural in the fullest sense of the word. Therefore, with natural means this cannot be attained. Here supernatural means are needed, namely, divine grace. This grace is obtained through humility and confident prayer. Grace, and only grace, enlightens the intellect and strengthens the will, and it alone is the cause of conversion, which is the liberating of the soul from the fetters of the Evil One.
In St. Maximilian’s view, spiritual militancy is grounded in prayer, operates through grace and aims at the liberation and happiness of souls. The saint did not confuse militancy with militarism. “Militant” implies a zealous and selfless devotion to a cause. “Militarist” implies a self-serving exaltation of war. Those who follow the ideals of St. Maximilian pray for the grace to be militants, not militarists—devoted with militant zeal to the cause of evangelization.
This Kolbean ideal of winning the whole world for Christ is derived from the Scriptures. In the Scriptures, selfless militancy for Christ has a distinctive Marian dimension. Both Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12 employ militant terminology to describe God’s plan for the ultimate victory of Christ, and both associate a “Woman” with Christ, who is Love Incarnate.
Militancy in Scripture
From the first book of the Scriptures to the last, the battle lines between good and evil are clearly drawn. The Immaculate Virgin is not only an integral part of the battle, but indispensable in attaining victory. St. Maximilian wanted to establish the Militia Immaculatae as a whole company of militants collaborating with Mary in the spread of God’s love. In 1938 he wrote:
In America in the clearing of fields and forests, controlled fires are sometimes set; in the spiritual battle we ought to set fire to our faults with the fire of divine love. Then everything will be consumed with fire. As to the fire of divine love, it is stoked by sacrifice. Only sacrifice is that tree which is to be turned into a holocaust on the altar of God’s love. Yes, sacrifice is a necessary condition of love. Without sacrifice there is no progress in the divine life. Without sacrifice our love dies out….
The triumph of Christ’s love in the world must begin in each of our hearts before we can spread it elsewhere. St. Maximilian would propose a spirituality of an interior “holocaust” in order to burn away sin and imperfections and to let love triumph. Since Mary Immaculate was the first human heart in which Christ’s love triumphed, she would serve as spiritual leader and catalyst in our interior love-holocaust of conversion and sanctification.
The act of “Total Consecration to Mary” advocated by St. Maximilian is the concrete expression of our intention to let Mary accomplish the work that God has given her, beginning with the interior holocaust of our own hearts. The spirituality of Marian militancy is rooted in the humble, self-sacrificing holocaust of love that “Total Consecration to Mary” represents. The fruit of this spirituality is love in action. St. Maximilian describes these militant lovers in these words:
Let us look at the image of a true Knight of the Immaculate. He (or she) does not restrict his heart to himself alone, nor merely to his family, friends, neighbors, co-citizens, but embraces the whole world, each and every human being, because they are all without exception, our brothers and sisters who have been purchased by the blood of Jesus. The militant desires for everyone the light of faith, happiness, forgiveness of sins, and a heart afire with God’s love. His dream is the happiness of all humanity in God through the Immaculate.
The above article is an abridged transcript of a talk given by Father James McCurry, O.F.M.Conv., who is Past-President of the Mariological Society of America, former National Director of the Militia Immaculata in the United States, and a regular guest on EWTN. For more information on the Militia Immaculatae in the United States, contact http://www.consecration.com/.