The following article has been shared by our Province Delegate to the Militia of the Immaculate (M.I.) ~ Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv.:
On May 7, 2020 the Order marked three hundred years since the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, was declared the principal patroness of our Order. That declaration was made by decree of the 156th General Chapter (May 1719) and approved by Pope Clement XI on May 7, 1720. To celebrate this significant anniversary, our new General, Friar Carlos Trovarelli, presided at a Mass in Rome at the Basilica of Santi Apostoli, still closed because of Covid-19. After the Mass, Friar Carlos renewed “today and forever” (oggi e per sempre) the consecration of the entire Order to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoked under the title of the Immaculate Conception (see the Order’s website for the beautifully detailed prayer of entrustment).
The Order’s Communications Office recounts that what occasioned this joyous commemoration was a letter which our General received from one of the oldest friars in the Order, Friar Oreste Casaburo (age 94) of the Neapolitan province. In a letter to the General, Friar Oreste reported that he had made a happy discovery last year when he found an article by St. Maximilian Kolbe, entitled “Two Hundred Years Ago” (see The Writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, 1271).
In the article, which was written in Japan in May 1934, Friar Maximilian explained that, at the conclusion of the 156th General Chapter in Rome, it was decided to raise up and establish the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, as the Principal Patroness of the Order. The newly elected General, Friar Carlo Giuseppe Romilli of Bergamo, Italy, together with his definitory, decreed:
“Since its origin and throughout its history, the Order of Friars Minor Conventual has surrounded the Conception of the Blessed Virgin with special manifestations of devotion. Therefore in the footsteps of their fathers, the Venerable Definitory has decreed to establish the Blessed Virgin, under the title of Immaculate Conception, as their main Patroness, in the firmest hope that more and more every day in our Order, devotion and veneration toward the Mother of God and toward the mystery of her Immaculate Conception increase and develop.”
Our Communications Office stated that, in his letter, Friar Oreste underscored: “In Father Kolbe’s day, it was 200 years, now it is 300 years, three centuries.” He invited the Minister General to seize the occasion: “Given this curious but happy coincidence, the idea popped into my head of asking if you might not address to us a few words of comfort during this bitter “virus” situation by way of a “Franciscan prayer” to the Virgin, entrusting your apostles and sons to Her, as our Seraphic Father, St. Francis, once did.” It was very soon after receiving Friar Oreste’s letter that our 120th Minister General decided to accept the proposal and renew forever the consecration of the Order to the Immaculate Conception. The Communications Office ended its report stating: “Once again we encounter the tradition of the Order; we hope and trust in the protection and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Cf. Constitutions, art. 1, §§ 6-7).”