“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