If the focus of the “First Page” of salvation history—to borrow the terminology of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe—culminated in the solemn definition of the truth of the Immaculate Conception, the “Second Page” is none other than an incorporation of this truth into the lives of individuals and into the life of the Church. Inseparable from this “Second Page” is God’s desire, expressed by the Virgin Mary at Fatima, to establish devotion in the world to her Immaculate Heart; in such wise history will be brought to its glorious fulfillment in the Most Holy Trinity.
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe (1894–1941) saw “two pages” of salvation history for the Franciscan Order and, we can say, by extension, for the whole world, linked by a “golden thread” which passes in a unique way through the heart of St. Francis of Assisi—a golden thread joining and binding the heart and soul of Francis to the Heart of Jesus Christ. That golden thread is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception, a title St. Maximilian understood as having been revealed by Mary as her very name at Lourdes in 1858. This name, he realized, reveals her most intimate union with the third Person of the Holy Trinity; and so he referred to Mary as the created Immaculate Conception and her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, as the uncreated Immaculate Conception.1
Promotion of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception has been at the heart of authentically Franciscan theology, especially since the time of Blessed John Duns Scotus (†1308). And so St. Maximilian identifies the “first page” of Franciscan history as beginning with the founding of the Franciscan Order in 1209 and culminating with the definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854.
The battle intensifies
The “second page,” for St. Maximilian, thus has as its starting point this great event of 1854. And in what, exactly, does this second page consist? Is it a matter of mere custodial work of guarding Franciscan memories, resting on one’s laurels (the dogma having been proclaimed), or merely teaching about Our Lady? Certainly, more insightful Mariology and teaching would be required of Franciscans toward securing the great theological signpost of the second page of human history, the papal definition of the Fifth Marian Dogma.2 But for Fr. Kolbe, the second page would have to mean “walking the talk,” so to speak; in other words, incorporating the Immaculate Conception into life—becoming immaculate like the Immaculate and helping our brothers and sisters do the same.
The second page evidently calls for a great transformation of hearts, new hearts of real discipleship filled to their depths with the joy of heroic charity—a degree of love which could only stem from great miracles of grace. Evidently, such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit can only come by embracing the Cross, for this is where the true disciple always stands, suffering joyfully with Mary.3 For Fr. Kolbe this could only mean a life with and dedicated to Mary Immaculate, modeled after her master disciple of the Cross, St. Francis of Assisi, that most Marian and joyful disciple of the crucified Christ.4
In the most practical terms, the second page means being true or obedient children (“seed”) of Mary, restoring in our souls a pure and childlike faith in the infinite goodness of God and enkindling in our hearts an interior fire of divine love that will renew the face of the earth. It means taking our happy part, confidently on the side of our Mother in her battle for purity: “I will put enmities between you and the Woman, and your seed and her Seed: she shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for her heel” (Gen 3:15, Douay-Rheims). A real decision must be made, therefore, to be a true disciple in the second page: will I entrust myself to Mary in humble obedience and fight for purity? Or will I slide away in mediocrity?
What is purity? Purity, the opposite of sin, relates to our “moral personality” situated in “the heart,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Pure in heart’ refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity, chastity or sexual rectitude, love of truth and orthodoxy of faith. There is a connection between purity of heart, of body, and of faith (CCC 2517–18).
Here then is the purpose for which the brilliant young friar at age 23 and one year before his ordination as a Catholic priest, founded the “Militia of the Immaculate” (MI) as key instrument for implementing the second page. Note that a militia is a fighting group, and so Our Lady’s Militia was established “in the evening secretly,” he says, “behind the closed doors of an inner cell,” with six other members of his Conventual Franciscan Order. The date was October 17, 1917.5
Why such secrecy?
The secret founding of the MI, first confined to Franciscans as what we might call the formal beginning of the second page, was inspired after St. Maximilian witnessed the Freemasons of Rome, as part of their 1917 bicentennial celebration, parading with signs championing the victory of Satan over the Church! In their hatred for the Church, the Freemasons actually marched right up to the doors of St. Peter’s, where the pope was a voluntary prisoner. Boldly, they displayed their banners: “Satan must reign in the Vatican. The pope will be his slave.”6 (One wonders what they will have to say at their tricentennial in 2017.)
It was a secret meeting, because the young Kolbe had come to realize that, even in his Franciscan seminary, not everyone was on his side with Our Lady; not everyone was ready to fight the battle for purity. The hateful display of the Freemasons had allowed him to see that their god, Satan, had penetrated subtly into the Church through that Masonic-inspired cluster of heresies called M o d e r n i s m . One of those dreadful ideas that particularly concerned him and that was a problem even within his own religious order was a kind of religious indifferentism, which adopts, among other things, the slack view that God will be pleased with whatever form of worship man offers Him.7 Anathema to the heroic purity needed in a missionary vocation, such errors before long would result in the death of many vocations, as the history of the twentieth century shows.
The young St. Maximilian organized his secret meeting just four days after Our Lady’s last apparition at Fatima, where 70,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun. In both instances, Our Lady’s purpose was clearly the same. At Rome, via Friar Kolbe, she was preparing her Franciscan Order, her Order of Penance, to lead her children everywhere by teaching and exemplifying the necessity of taking seriously the life of penance and prayer taught in the Gospels, and emphasized at Lourdes and Fatima. She specified the necessity of the daily Rosary, and at Fatima the necessity of consecrating oneself to Jesus through her Immaculate Heart in order to receive the graces God wants to give. Unfortunately, relatively few people have yet heeded her call.
The Absolute Primacy of Jesus and Mary
It is important to realize, fundamentally, why St. Maximilian’s two page view of Franciscan history concerns everyone in our times and those who will live in the future. The reason is explained by that insistence by Franciscans on a thesis that complements the dogma of the Immaculate Conception: the Absolute Primacy of Jesus and Mary over all creation.
Using Scripture as our basis, we may summarize the Absolute Primacy of Christ as follows: Jesus Christ, the God-man, is the visible image of the invisible God, the “first born” of every creature in the mind of God, created for the purpose of giving the maximum glory to God. As the Center of all creation, Jesus is predestined in the mind of the Father before the foundation of the world. In Him all things in heaven and earth are made and are held together (cf. Eph 1 and Col 1). Therefore, the Franciscan school teaches, in what has come to be called the “Franciscan thesis,” that the existence of Jesus Christ is an absolute existence, one not contingent on any other created thing.
Mary Immaculate also has an essential role in God’s plan, because she is similarly predestined in the mind of God from before the beginning of time, so to speak, to be the Mother of Jesus Christ and the Woman—“pre-established,” says Blessed Pius IX, “in one and the same decree with the Incarnation of divine Wisdom.”8
Total Consecration to Mary
The method for implementing the second page—of becoming immaculate like the Immaculate—is widely known as “true devotion” or “total consecration” to Mary; namely, imitating Jesus by the free gift of oneself to our common Mother Mary.
Thus the first requirement for those who followed Fr. Kolbe in the MI was to add a “fourth vow” of total consecration to Mary, by which the friar dedicated himself without reserve to be an instrument in the hands of the Immaculate in obedience to his superiors, who could send him to any mission whatsoever. It is from this root that the Marian Vow blossomed forth in the new Order of Pontifical Rite begun in 1990 under Pope John Paul II, the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FI), where the Marian Vow is no longer distinguished only by its missionary emphasis, but by the totality of the religious life according to the Seraphic Rule. “Through the Marian Vow this life and Rule become utterly ‘Maryformed’ for the highest and most perfect ‘conformity-to-Christ,’ namely, that of the Immaculate herself.”9
Similarly, laity and diocesan clergy who join the Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix (MIM), the FI offshoot of Kolbe’s MI, may also take a Marian Vow.
The Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Consecration of oneself to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, most intensely by a Marian Vow, is the necessary means for restoring in souls that pure and childlike faith in the infinite goodness of God and enkindling in hearts an interior fire of divine love that will renew the face of the earth. This is “a new and divine holiness” which is about to sweep the Church interiorly, according to the Blessed Pope John Paul II.10 It is the coming reign of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary prophesied by Saints Louis de Montfort and Maximilian M. Kolbe, and which Sister Lucia, the Fatima seer, and others have called the “Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
The Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the glorification of the Father, in communion with the Father. It is the very fulfillment of the Gospel of Mary’s divine Son, Jesus Christ. It is the fulfillment of the Lord’s Prayer: I love you, Father. I give myself to you. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done. Just as the Father’s gift of his only begotten Son has come through Mary, the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit which allows us to love the Father also comes through Mary. This in essence is the meaning of the Triumph of the Immaculate. It is the fulfillment of Our Lady’s mission with the Holy Spirit to form Jesus in souls, accomplished by our faithful consecration to God through her Immaculate Heart. This is what the “second page” of human history is all about.
1 Mary’s title “Spouse of the Holy Spirit” stems uniquely from St. Francis of Assisi. The term “uncreated Immaculate Conception” in reference to the Holy Spirit follows from basic Trinitarian theology; the Son is eternally generated from the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son as “uncreated conception.”
2 The proposed Fifth Marian Dogma is of great importance because it would unambiguously acknowledge in three points Mary as (1) Mediatrix of all graces to us and affirm the importance of approaching her as our (2) Advocate with God, since she is our very Mother, given us by Christ at the cross because she uniquely participates with Christ always as (3) Coredemptrix. Thus, just as the theology of the Immaculate Conception was the main emphasis of Franciscan theologians in the first page of history, the theology necessary for promoting the Fifth Marian Dogma is the main thrust in the second page. For the development of this theology see the series of books Mary at the Foot of the Cross published by the Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA.
3 Renowned for his joy and for exhorting his friars to rejoice always (cf. Phil 4:4), St. Francis, paradoxically, wept so many tears and so frequently as to become physically blind! Joy in suffering is the hallmark of the true disciple, says Jesus (cf. Mt 5:3-11 & Heb 12:2)
4 For irrefutable evidence of this humble boast see the article “St. Francis of Assisi: The Church’s leading Marian Saint,” Missio Immaculatae, 5, Sept-Oct, 2011.
5 Kolbe: Saint of the Immaculate, edited by Bro. Francis M. Kalvelage, FI, (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 2001) p. 34.
6 ibid., p. 31.
7 For a more complete definition see the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, posted on the web at newadvent.org.
8 Pope Pius IX: “The ineffable God…from the beginning and before the ages chose and preordained a Mother to His onlybegotten Son .… And for this reason it was customary in the Church, both in the ecclesiastical offices and in the sacred liturgy, to use the selfsame expressions with which the divine Scriptures speak of uncreated wisdom (Prov 8:22 and Ecclus 24:5ff) and apply them to the origins of the Virgin [the Immaculate Conception] which had been pre-established in one and the same decree with the Incarnation of divine Wisdom” (Ineffabilis Deus,1, 32).
9 Manelli, Fr. Stefano M, FI, The Marian Vow, (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 2010) p. xv.
10 See his “Letter on the Centenary of the Rogationist Fathers,” L’Osservatore Romano, July 9, 1997, p. 3, also his Dominum et Vivificantem, 56, and the excellent book “New and Divine”—The Holiness of the Third Christian Millennium, Hugh Owen, 2001, Woodstock, VA: John Paul II Institute of Christian Spirituality, pp. 11 and 21-24.