Lizze Self, Notre Dame
The Militia of the Immaculata is the product of saints. Maximilian Kolbe noted that it seemed Satan had his own army, and deemed it providential that the Immaculate Conception should have hers. He created the community of brothers in Poland, and together they published magazines for the faithful and their children, to encourage them in the darkness of those days and to inspire deeper relationships with Our Blessed Mother in the larger Polish community.
Who are you, Immaculate Conception? This is the question that riddled Saint Maximilian’s life, and he struggled to understand Our Lady’s proclamation of identity to Saint Bernadette in Lourdes. He came to understand by revelation that Mary is the created Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit is the uncreated Immaculate Conception; Mary is the spouse of the spirit. What? How do we relate to her?
Reaching for Mary somehow makes much more sense, and actually seems desirable, when we understand that hers is a much more active role in our lives than the delivery of Christ. She pondered in her heart the greatest mystery this world has ever known, greater than you or I will ever be asked to consider, and she wants to share this faith with us. She carried her burden to Calvary and even as she looked up at her Son on the Cross, she trusted that God would bring something better out of her excruciating pain. How do we relate to someone of such powerful faith? If our lives are an offering to God, then Mary is the Queen we can ask to present our gifts to the King on a silver platter. She takes what little we have to offer and multiplies and beautifies it. This is at the heart of the Militia of the Immaculata’s devotion to Our Lady: everything to Christ, through her. We recognize that the blessings we enjoy pass through her hands. Our sufferings she has first deemed fit for us. Our prayers will never be misdirected or rendered ineffective because of our inadequacies, because she in her kindness and attentiveness knows our hearts and leads them to their end.
At Our Lady’s University, the Militia of the Immaculata celebrates our relationship with Mary through retreats, weekly meetings and dinners, and nightly rosaries in our beloved grotto. Each semester, we (re)consecrate ourselves to her with Father Michael Gaitley’s accessible but provocative 33 Days to Morning Glory. It is a perfect segway into Marian life; these readings respect the power Our Lady possesses and acknowledge our deep and natural longing for such a mother.
I found Father Michael Gaitley in my backpack as I dug around for something to do, flying home from Poland in July 2016. My high school youth minister had gifted Gaitley’s Second Greatest Story Ever Told to me, and it was on that flight that, in reading about JPII, Saint Faustina, and Saint Max, I felt that God desired sainthood for me. I felt I had advocates in the saints. I felt I had been rejecting the love of a patient and generous mother. I Amazon-primed a copy of 33 Days to Morning Glory, and the rest is history. I am deeply indebted to this little book, for turning me to her. Many take to the road without knowing her guidance and stumble through suffering, sinfulness, and challenges feeling much more alone than they need to. I would not be at her university, and I would certainly not have known to approach the Militia of the Immaculata club—a group of people whose goodness continues to boggle me—without having read about these great saints who entrusted their hearts to one we all share in common. We adore this Mother—we don’t worship her. We take comfort in her cloak and readily confide in the one Christ Himself gave to us so that we can experience His life and love intimately. Behold your mother.