The History of the MI
Saint Maximilian Tells How the MI Began
The following account of the beginnings of the MI was written by Fr. Maximilian Kolbe while in Japan, working in the mission he had established almost five years previously. Though he had personally founded the mission, Father Maximilian was no longer its superior. This responsibility had been given to Fr. Cornelius Czupryk, OFMConv., by the Provincial Chapter of the parent Province in Poland in 1933 because of Father Maximilian’s poor health. At the same time this arrangement left him freer to travel in China and India where he began negotiations to establish new missions there. It is thanks to Father Cornelius that we have this precious account, which contains details recorded nowhere else. Father Cornelius requested Father Maximilian to describe the beginnings of the MI for an article in the Mugenzai no Seibo no Kishi, the Japanese MI publication. It appeared in the 1935 November issue commemorating the 18th anniversary of the MI.
A LOT OF WATER has already passed under the bridge: it all took place nearly 18 years ago, so I have almost forgotten a number of details.
However, since the Fr. Guardian [Kornel Czupryk] commands me to give an account of the beginnings of the MI, I will describe what my memory allows me still to recall.
I remember talking with my brother clerics about the wretched state of our Order and about its future. And in those moments, the following idea was being impressed on my mind: either rebuild it or break it all up. I felt deep sorrow for those young people who often came to us with the best intention and most of the time ended up losing their ideal of holiness in the very friary. Yet I did not quite know what to do.
Let me go further back in time.
I still recall how as a young boy I had bought a small statue of the Immaculata for five kopeks. And in the minor seminary, where we attended Mass in the choir, with my face to the ground, I promised the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, whose image overlooked the altar, that I would fight for her. But how? I did not know. Yet, I envisioned a fight with material weapons.
A War for Men’s Hearts
For that reason, when time came for me to enter the novitiate (or make my profession?), I confided to the Father Master, Fr. Dionizy (Sowiak), of blessed memory, that difficulty of mine in entering religious life.
He transformed my decision into a commitment to recite the “Sub tuum praesidium” every day. I have continued to recite that prayer to this day, even if I know now what type of battle the Immaculata had at heart.
Although I was very prone to pride, I felt strongly drawn to the Immaculata. In my small cell, on my kneeler, I always kept the image of a saint to whom the Immaculata had appeared. And I would often turn to her in prayer. On seeing that, a friar told me that I must be very devoted to that saint.
When in Rome the Freemasons started coming out in the open daringly, flaunting their banners under the windows of the Vatican, depicting, on the black banners of the followers of Giordano Bruno, St. Michael the Archangel crushed under the foot of Lucifer, and openly lashing out against the Holy Father in propaganda pamphlets, the thought came of setting up an association committed to fighting Freemasonry and other servants of Lucifer. To make sure that such idea was coming from the Immaculata, I sought counsel from my spiritual director at the time, Fr. Alessandro Basile, a Jesuit, ordinary confessor of students at the College. Having obtained assurance from holy obedience, I decided to get down to work.
In the meantime, however, we moved to the “Vigna” friary, which is about a 20–30 minute walk from the College, for a holiday period.
The First Signs of TB
During a football game, blood started coming out of my mouth. I drew aside and lay down on the grass. Br. Girolamo Biasi, of blessed memory, took care of me. I spat up blood for quite a while. Soon after, I went to the doctor. I rejoiced at the thought that perhaps I was already nearing the end of my life. The doctor ordered me to go back [to the College] in a coach and go to bed. Medication could barely stop the flow of blood, which kept coming out. During those days, the young and pious cleric Br. Girolamo Biasi, of blessed memory, used to come to see me.
Two weeks later, the doctor finally allowed me to go out for the first time. In the company of another cleric, Br. [Giovanni] Ossanna I got to the “Vigna,” albeit with difficulty. When the clerics saw me, they cheered and were in high spirits, and brought me fresh figs, wine and bread. Having had something to eat and drink, my aches and pangs ceased, and for the first time I mentioned the idea of starting an association to Br. Girolamo Biasi and Fr. Iosif Pal, who had been ordained a priest before me although we were attending the same year of theology. However, I stipulated that each of them should consult their spiritual directors first, to make sure that it was in fact God’s will.
The MI Begins to Grow
Having recovered some of my strength, I was sent to Viterbo, with the cleric Br. Antoni Głowiński, my colleague, for an additional vacation period. On that occasion, Br. Antoni Głowiński joined the MI. Shortly after, Br. Antonio Mansi, of blessed memory, and Br. Enrico Granata, both clerics of the province of Naples also enrolled. No one at the College knew of the existence of this association except those who belonged to the MI. Only the Rector, Fr. Stefano Ignudi, in his capacity as Superior, was aware of the MI’s existence. For our part, we did not do anything without his permission, because that was a mark of obedience, namely, the will of the Immaculata. Thus, with the consent of the Fr. Rector, on October 16,1917, the first meeting of the first seven members took place, namely:
(1) Fr. Iosif Pal, a young priest of the Romanian Province;
(2) Br. Antoni Głowiński, deacon of the Romanian Province (d. October 18, 1918);
(3) Br. Girolamo Biasi, from the Province of Padua (d. 1929);
(4) Br. Quirico Pignalberi, of the Roman Province;
(5) Br. Antonio Mansi, of the Province of Naples (d. October 31, 1918);
(6) Br. Enrico Granata, of the Province of Naples;
The meeting took place at night, in secret, in a locked, inner cell that was constructed by means of a temporary wall. In front of us there was a little statue of the Immaculata between two lighted candles. Br. Girolamo Biasi acted as secretary. The purpose of this first meeting was the discussion of the “program of the MI” (the enrollment form), especially since Fr. Alessandro Basile, who was also confessor to the Pope [Benedict XV], had promised he would ask the Holy Father for a blessing of the MI.
Fr. Basile, however, did not keep his promise, and we obtained our first oral blessing of the Holy Father via Bishop Msgr. Dominique Jaquet, professor of ecclesiastical history in our College.
For more than a year after that first meeting, the MI made no progress. In fact, all kinds of setbacks piled up, to the point that members were uncomfortable even mentioning it among themselves. One of them even tried to convince the others that the MI was something useless.
It was then that, with wonderful signs of election, the Immaculata summoned to her side Fr. Antoni Głowiński, and ten days later, Br. Antonio Mansi, both victims of the Spanish flu. As for me, the condition of my lungs got worse: every time I coughed, I spat blood. That is when it all started to change. Having been excused from school, I took the opportunity to copy out the “Program of MI” and gave it to the Most Rev. Fr. General (or rather the Vicar General, Fr. Domenico Tavani), in order to obtain his blessing in writing. “If there were at least 12 of you…,” said the Most Rev. Fr. General. He wrote his blessing and voiced his desire (I believe on that very occasion) that the MI should be propagated among our youth.
Membership started to increase, and has increased more and more ever since.
In that early period of life of the Militia, our activity—besides private prayer—consisted in handing out medals of the Immaculata, called “Miraculous Medals.” On one occasion, the same Most Rev. Fr. General gave us money to purchase some.
From The Writings of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe (KW 1278)
The Catholic Church’s Recent Statements on Freemasonry:
|CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church’s decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous Code.
This Sacred Congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance in due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.
Therefore the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.
It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the Declaration of this Sacred Congregation issued on 17 February 1981 (cf. AAS 73 1981 pp. 240-241; English language edition of L’Osservatore Romano, 9 March 1981).
In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation.
Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 26 November 1983.
Joseph Card. RATZINGER
REFLECTIONS A YEAR AFTER DECLARATION
Irreconcilability between Christian faith and Freemasonry
On 26 November 1983 the S. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (S.C.D.F.) published a declaration on Masonic associations (cf. AAS LXXVI , 300). At a distance of little more than a year from its publication, it may be useful to outline briefly the significance of this document.
Since the Church began to declare her mind concerning Freemasonry, her negative judgment has been inspired by many reasons, both practical and doctrinal. She judged Freemasonry not merely responsible for subversive activity in her regard, but from the earliest pontifical documents on the subject and in particular in the Encyclical Humanum Genus by Leo XIII (20 April 1884), the Magisterium of the Church has denounced in Freemasonry philosophical ideas and moral conceptions opposed to Catholic doctrine. For Leo XIII, they essentially led back to a rationalistic naturalism, the inspiration of its plans and activities against the Church. In his Letter to the Italian people Custodi (8 December 1892), he wrote: «Let us remember that Christianity and Freemasonry are essentially irreconcilable, so that enrolment in one means separation from the other».
One could not therefore omit to take into consideration the positions of Freemasonry from the doctrinal point of view, when, during the years from 1970‑1980, the Sacred Congregation was in correspondence with some Episcopal Conferences especially interested in this problem because of the dialogue undertaken by some Catholic personages with representatives of some Masonic lodges which declared that they were not hostile, but were even favorable, to the Church.
Now more thorough study has led the S.C.D.F. to confirm its conviction of the basic irreconcilability between the principles of Freemasonry and those of the Christian faith.
Prescinding therefore from consideration of the practical attitude of the various lodges, whether of hostility towards the Church or not, with its declaration of 26 November 1983 the S.C.D.F. intended to take a position on the most profound and, for that matter, the most essential part of the problem: that is, on the level of the irreconcilability of the principles, which means on the level of the faith, and its moral requirements.
Beginning from this doctrinal point of view, and in continuity, moreover, with the traditional position of the Church as the aforementioned documents of Leo XIII attest, there arise then the necessary practical consequences, which are valid for all those faithful who may possibly be members of Freemasonry.
Nevertheless, with regard to the affirmation of the irreconcilability between the principles of Freemasonry and the Catholic faith, from some parts are now heard the objection that essential to Freemasonry would be precisely the fact that it does not impose any «principles», in the sense of a philosophical or religious position which is binding for all of its members, but rather that it gathers together, beyond the limits of the various religions and world views, men of good will on the basis of humanistic values comprehensible and acceptable to everyone.
Freemasonry would constitute a cohesive element for all those who believe in the Architect of the Universe and who feel committed with regard to those fundamental moral orientations which are defined, for example, in the Decalogue; it would not separate anyone from his religion, but on the contrary, would constitute an incentive to embrace that religion more strongly.
The multiple historical and philosophical problems which are hidden in these affirmations cannot be discussed here. It is certainly not necessary to emphasize that following the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church too is pressing in the direction of collaboration between all men of good will. Nevertheless, becoming a member of Freemasonry decidedly exceeds this legitimate collaboration and has a much more important and final significance than this.
Above all, it must be remembered that the community of «Freemasons» and its moral obligations are presented as a progressive system of symbols of an extremely binding nature. The rigid rule of secrecy which prevails there further strengthens the weight of the interaction of signs and ideas. For the members this climate of secrecy entails above all the risk of becoming an instrument of strategies unknown to them.
Even if it is stated that relativism is not assumed as dogma, nevertheless there is really proposed a relativistic symbolic concept and therefore the relativizing value of such a moral-ritual community, far from being eliminated, proves on the contrary to be decisive.
In this context the various religious communities to which the individual members of the lodges belong can be considered only as simple institutionalizations of a broader and elusive truth. The value of these institutionalizations therefore appears to be inevitably relative with respect to this broader truth, which instead is shown in the community of good will, that is, in the Masonic fraternity.
In any case, for a Catholic Christian, it is not possible to live his relation with God in a twofold mode, that is, dividing it into a supraconfessional humanitarian form and an interior Christian form. He cannot cultivate relations of two types with God, nor express his relation with the Creator through symbolic forms of two types. That would be something completely different from that collaboration, which to him is obvious, with all those who are committed to doing good, even if beginning from different principles. On the one hand, a Catholic Christian cannot at the same time share in the full communion of Christian brotherhood and, on the other, look upon his Christian brother, from the Masonic perspective, as an «outsider».
Even when, as stated earlier, there were no explicit obligation to profess relativism as doctrine, nevertheless the relativizing force of such a brotherhood, by its very intrinsic logic, has the capacity to transform the structure of the act of faith in such a radical way as to become unacceptable to a Christian, «to whom his faith is dear» (Leo XIII).
Moreover, this distortion of the fundamental structure of the act of faith is carried out for the most part in a gentle way and without being noticed: firm adherence to the truth of God, revealed in the Church, becomes simple membership, in an institution, considered as a particular expressive form alongside other expressive forms, more or less just as possible and valid, of man’s turning toward the eternal.
The temptation to go in this direction is much stronger today, inasmuch as it corresponds fully to certain convictions prevalent in contemporary mentality. The opinion that truth cannot be known is a typical characteristic of our era and, at the same time, an essential element in its general crisis.
Precisely by considering all these elements, the Declaration of the Sacred Congregation affirms that membership in Masonic associations «remains forbidden by the Church», and the faithful who enrolls in them «are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion».
With this last statement, the Sacred Congregation points out to the faithful that this membership objectively constitutes a grave sin and by specifying that the members of a Masonic association may not receive Holy Communion, it intends to enlighten the conscience of the faithful about a grave consequence which must derive from their belonging to a Masonic lodge.
Finally, the Sacred Congregation declares that «it is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above». In this regard, the text also refers to the Declaration of 17 February 1981, which already reserved to the Apostolic See all pronouncements on the nature of these associations which may have implied derogations from the Canon Law then in force (Can. 2335). In the same way, the new document issued by the S.C.D.F. in November 1983 expresses identical intentions of reserve concerning pronouncements which would differ from the judgment expressed here on the irreconcilability of Masonic principles with the Catholic faith, on the gravity of the act of joining a lodge and on the consequences which arise from it for receiving Holy Communion. This disposition points out that, despite the diversity which may exist among Masonic obediences, in particular in their declared attitude towards the Church, the Apostolic See discerns some common principles in them which require the same evaluation by all ecclesiastical authorities.
In making this Declaration, the S.C.D.F. has not intended to disown the efforts made by those who, with the due authorization of this Congregation, have sought to establish a dialogue with representatives of Freemasonry. But since there was the possibility of spreading among the faithful the erroneous opinion that membership in a Masonic lodge was lawful, it felt that it was its duty to make known to them the authentic thought of the Church in this regard and to warn them about a membership incompatible with the Catholic faith.
Only Jesus Christ is, in fact, the Teacher of Truth, and only in him can Christians find the light and the strength to live according to God’s plan, working for the true good of their brethren.
[Article from L’Osservatore Romano dated March 11, 1985]