Crusade of Mary Immaculate sA group of parishioners representing the Crusade of Mary Immaculate at Our Lady of Lourdes, Sheffield made their first visit to the National Centre of the Crusade of Mary Immaculate at All Saints Franciscan Friary in Manchester to join other Crusaders in the first Saturday Mass and Devotion on 4 October.  The visit included welcoming refreshments, praying the Rosary together, the celebration of Mass with the beautiful singing of the Philip Neri choir and an opportunity for Confession.

The group met the Franciscan Friars and had a chat with Brother Christopher.  Deacon Tony showed us around this beautiful church and described its rich history.  There was a variety of Franciscan publications available in the hall for purchase.

The Crusade of Mary Immaculate (MI – Militia Immaculata) is a worldwide Catholic Church movement founded by St Maximilian Kolbe, which promotes personal consecration to Mary.  By joining the Crusade, members become willing instruments of Our Lady and work for the Church and salvation of others.  The visible sign of that is wearing her Miraculous Medal.

St Maximilian and the History of Militia Immaculata

St Maximilian was born on 8 January, 1894 in the village of Zdunska Wola in Poland and given the name Raymond.  His parents taught him to follow the Catholic faith and devotion to Mary, who was formally enthroned by Polish kings of yore as the Queen of their Polish realm.  The Kolbe family loved Mary and would sometimes journey on pilgrimage to the national shrine in Czestochowa.  One day young Raymond full of enthusiasm vowed to the Blessed Virgin Mary that he would be her faithful subject and offered himself to battle for her cause.  Later in life, he would come to understand that God wished this patriotic Marian vow to be transformed by the deep religion consecration.  Despite all good examples of daily religious practice, young Raymond was sometimes too cheeky in his behaviour, so his mum was concerned about him and kept asking herself: “Raymond, what will become of you?!”  Shortly afterwards, during his praying in Our Lady of Victory Church, Raymond had a mystical experience.  He saw the Blessed Virgin Mary offering him two crowns, the white crown of purity and the red crown of martyrdom.  With childlike abandon, Raymond accepted both crowns, and from that moment on he changed and wanted to be pure and self-sacrificing.

After being ordained a priest, Kolbe began forming the Crusade prayer groups and publishing a magazine called ‘Knight of the Immaculata’.  The publishing ministry grew so rapidly that in 1927 he built an evangelisation centre near Warsaw called ‘Niepokalanow’ – City of the Immaculata.  By the time of the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, the City contained 650 friars and was the largest Catholic religious house in the world.  Kolbe utilised the most modern printing and administrative techniques available, enabling him and his friars to publish a daily newspaper and a number of periodicals.  The Knight reached a circulation of over 1 million.  Niepokalanow became the largest publishing house in Poland, perhaps the world.  In his zeal to win the world for the Immaculata, Kolbe, in 1930, established a missionary centre in Japan, and had plans for centres in India and China.  He built an airship to better distribute his newspapers, had his own radio station, and had drawn up plans for evangelising through television and films.  St Maximilian Kolbe died in a concentration camp in Auschwitz on the eve of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  By giving his life for his fellow prisoner Franciszek Gajowniczek and accepting death by starvation, he gained the red crown promised by Mary – martyrdom.  On 14 August, 1941 he was injected with a legal drug – carbolic acid.  On the day of the Assumption his body was cremated.  Fr Kolbe was canonised by Pope John Paul II on 10 October, 1982, when he gained the other crown promised by Mary – the white one, symbolising sanctity.  Gajowniczek was present at his canonisation.

Militia Immaculata in England

In England, the national centre for the Crusade is based in Manchester, where “The Crusader” magazine is published.  Each month “The Crusader” is distributed to more than fifty countries of the world, including several African countries; from Ethiopia to Ghana, to Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa; from as far away as New Zealand to as close to home as Ireland; to the United States and Canada; to Brazil, Jordan and Japan, India and Sri Lanka.

The aim of the Crusade of Mary Immaculate, according to St Maximilian, is “to conquer the whole world, all hearts and each individual soul for the Queen of Heaven and earth” and “to win for God as many souls as possible”.

How to Enrol in Militia Immaculata

If you want to enrol, select the date on which you want your name recorded in the official register of the Militia Immaculata, preferably a Marian feast day, and on the day of your enrolment recite the official act of consecration.  Then, complete the enrolment application and post to National Crusade Centre, Redclyffe Road, Urmston, Manchester, M41 7LG, UK.  The Brothers will send you your membership booklet, your certificate, prayers and Miraculous Medal free of charge.  As a Crusader of Mary Immaculate, you will be included in all the special graces and indulgencies awarded by the Church to the Crusade.  As a visible sign, you need to wear the Miraculous Medal of Mary Immaculate.  The medal owes its origins to the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Paris in 1830.  She appeared to Catherine Labouré, showing the young nun and future saint the design of the medal and promised untold graces given to those who wear it.

More information can be found on www.mi-sheffield.com.  You can also follow the Crusade on Facebook: www.facebook.com/crusadeofmaryimmaculate.sheffield.  The local Militia Immaculata centre at Our Lady of Lourdes has Bishop Ralph’s blessing to promote the work of St Maximilian in the diocese.