The foundation, nature and mission of the M.I.
(link to the Militia of the Immaculata, USA)
It was really the desire to love in the style of Christ, and to experience the richness of entrusting oneself to Mary, that gave rise to the M.I. in 1917. This Marian movement was the solution Kolbe and his companions found to address the delicate social, political, economic and religious situation of their day. The Marian association that Kolbe and his six companions founded was the prophetic vision that was put forward as an element to resolve and propel through the great darkness humanity was enduring in that period.
Maximilian was not afraid of novelty, in fact it launched him into new forms of apostolate, supported and driven by the strength that emanates from God. He imagined the M.I. as a mission that could reach the hearts of all men, surpassing previous models of associations. He desired that the M.I. “be less ‘transcendentalis’ than ‘universalis’, that is to say, it should not present itself as one more organization among the many that already exist, but rather deeply permeate all organizations” (SK 658). According to Kolbe, a movement that was born by listening to the voice of the Spirit and which lives by entrusting oneself the Immaculate cannot be constrained and is called to be “woven into” every part of the ecclesial and social fabric. Indeed, “the purpose of the Militia of the Immaculata is to conquer the whole world, all hearts and each person individually, for the Queen, not only of Heaven, but also of the Earth. To give true happiness to those poor unfortunates who seek it in the ephemeral pleasures of this world, this is our aim” (SK 97).
Today the M.I. is called to important enterprises in evangelism in keeping with its history, its journey and especially with its distinctly missionary vocation. I have been following the path of the Kolbean association with great care and attention and—with satisfaction, too. I note some initiatives that are proving to be particularly innovative and fruitful from the apostolic point of view. These are evangelization schools in Poland which are particularly popular with young people who, through a progressive catechetical path, are able to come face to face with the Kolbean charism. In addition, I should mention the increasingly enthusiastic participation of young M.I. members in World Youth Day. It’s a very significant change: In many countries the Kolbean Association is being rediscovered as something well-suited for young people—to the point that a World Day for young M.I. members has been called for 2018.
Love was the driving force that animated the Saint’s whole missionary journey. Evangelization, mission, martyrdom—everything came from a heart that loved in the light of the contemplation the Lord, a Lord who gives generously, without limits or boundaries. Kolbe said: “Your personal sanctification is your first occupation. Commitment toward the sanctification of others must be the overabundance of your love toward Jesus” (SK 987F). The Saint, with his spiritual experience, shows that you can achieve great apostolic goals if you express charity in your daily life through concrete and tangible acts.
The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the M.I.
The message and testimony of Kolbe are still very current and in this “favorable time” our Order and the M.I. are called to discover the topicality of his prophecy in the mission. The mission is not exempt from persecution as it witnesses the Gospel in contexts that are secularized and hostile to the Christian message and its apostolic journey. In this spirit, the M.I., with the Government of the Order present, began preparing for the 100th anniversary of its foundation with a Marian Congress held in Fatima on October, 28-30, 2016. Its evocative and meaningful theme is: With Mary from the Mission to Martyrdom: The Secret of St. Maximilian Kolbe. On October 16-18, 2017, in Rome, the centennial will be solemnly celebrated with timely moments for prayer, discussion and festivities. The year 2017 shall be a Kolbean Year for the entire Order, with opportunities to reflect on the legacy of Kolbe in the Church, in the Order and in the context of the New Evangelization, as suggested by a motion made at the last General Chapter. In fact, on October 19-20, 2017, there will be a convention of the Order in Rome with friars from all over the world participating. We will try to learn how to implement the Saints missionary and martyrial witness in our own life and times, certain that his prophetic vision is not worn out and still has much to say and to give.
May we experience this Kolbean Jubilee Year with great interior joy and with a greater emphasis on listening. We have a wonderful spiritual patrimony. It can be the basis for new itineraries suggested by the Holy Spirit to benefit the Church and humanity and that the Order and the M.I., in profound communion, may want to develop. Like Kolbe, in addition to Kolbe, under the creative influence of the Holy Spirit, we are invited to discover new avenues of mission that can speak to the hearts of the men and women of our time.
Friar Marco Tasca, OFM Conv.