The Organization of Our Crusade
The members of the Center banded themselves into a religious congregation on January 17, 1949. Since that time, this congregation, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, has been at the core of our Crusade. All of the Center’s ideals and spirit (our “school of thought”) are preserved and passed on by the Superior of the congregation, who is also the head of the First Order. It is he — or those who have proper delegation from him — who determines the practical direction of the Crusade. In short, the uppermost authority in our Crusade rests with him.
The men and women religious of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary make up the First and Second Orders, respectively. Our Third Order is comprised of Catholic faithful of any state in life. While these are mostly lay people, priests and religious persons of other congregations can also join as Tertiaries. (The Curé of Ars, a secular priest, was a Third Order Franciscan. Saint Vincent Pallotti, also a secular priest until founding his own Society, was a member of several Third Orders.)
The religious life has perpetually been an integral part of the life of the Church — the Apostolic College itself; ancient monks and nuns of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine; the Celtic monks and nuns of ancient Ireland; the disciples of Saint Benedict all over the West; the Basilian, Studite, and Maronite monks and nuns of the East; the mendicant friars and nuns like the Franciscans, Dominicans, Mercederians, and Trinitarians; the more modern societies such as the Jesuits, Redemptorists, Vincentians, Ursulines, Madames of the Sacred Heart, etc. All of these institutes of religious persons have adorned the Church with saints, have provided a secure means to working out one’s salvation and sanctification, and have, in varying degrees, participated in the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel to every nation. Many of them have even helped to cultivate the arts and sciences, all to the greater honor and glory of God.
The religious life is not merely an appendage added to Catholicism; it is a radical living of the Gospel by way of adding to the commandments of God the evangelical counsels. We say “radical,” not in the sense of “revolutionary” or “liberal,” but in its literal sense of “going to the very root” (radix = “root”). The religious life is the fullness of the Christian vocation. In the words of the recently beatified Dom Columba Marmion, the great Benedictine spiritual writer and a favorite author of our founder’s, “The religious life is not an institution created on the borders of Christianity; plunging its roots into the Gospel of Christ, it aims only at expressing the Gospel in all its integrity. Our religious ‘holiness’ is but the plenitude of our Divine adoption in Jesus; it is the absolute tradition [i.e., ‘handing over’] of the whole of ourselves through love, to the will of the Most High. Now His will is essentially that we should be His worthy children.”
The religious life that we live has elements common to all of the religious institutes in the Church. As with each order in the Church, we have our own spirit and charism superadded to the more foundational aspects of religious life. The Slaves are essentially “Montfortian” because, as an integral part of our religious life, we live the total consecration to Jesus through Mary as outlined in True Devotion to Mary. We are also devoted to the “Little Way” of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
In the history of the Church, it was the religious who acted in pivotal roles in the battle against the doctrinal enemies of Holy Mother Church. The following short list clearly illustrates this fact: Saint Athanasius and Saint Ephrem against the Arians, Saint Basil against the Macedonians, Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine against the Pelagians, Saint John of Damascus and Theodore of Studium against the Iconoclasts, Saint Dominic against the Albigensians, Saint Josaphat against the Eastern Dissidents, Saint Peter Canisius and Saint Robert Bellarmine against the Protestants. When Father Feeney found himself in the position of a defender of Catholic Orthodoxy against many and formidable enemies, he knew that the graces given to those in the religious state would be needed to defeat the heretics of our own day.