The Knights of Holy Mary Victrix at Lepanto is a specific group for men only within the Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix cenacle, inspired by St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe’s militant spirit of Marian devotion, modeled on the ancient military orders and adapted to the state of life of the layman (Statute, art. 1).
The Knights of Holy Mary Victrix at Lepanto is a specific group for men only within the Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix (MIM). The MIM is the Roman Catholic public association of the faithful, founded by Fr. Stefano M. Manelli and attached to the religious institute that he also founded, the Franciscans of the Immaculate. The spirituality of the MIM is unlimited consecration to Mary according to the teaching of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe. Thus, the Knights of Lepanto is a group of men who are formed to live consecration to Mary in a masculine way.
The name “Knights of Holy Mary Victrix at Lepanto,” which can be shortened to “Knights of Lepanto” (KL), conjures up images of the great military orders founded in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem during the early crusading years, such as the Knights Templar and the Knights of St. John. These knights were both men of prayer and of action.
More specifically, the name calls to mind the great heroes of the Battle of Lepanto (1571), especially Don Juan of Austria, and the faith of St. Pius, who assembled the Holy League that was victorious at Lepanto, and who led the whole Church in praying the Rosary for victory. It was through the bravery of good men, and through the intercession of the Queen of Lepanto who brought a turn of the wind, that led the Christian fleet to victory over the Islamic hordes. The present day Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary commemorates the victory at Lepanto on October 7, 1571, and was originally called the Feast of Our Lady of Victories.
The Knights of Lepanto takes the Marian spirituality of the MIM and specifies it for men. That spirituality is based on the teaching and example of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the Knight of the Immaculate. St. Maximilian translated Marian devotion into a militant spirit, inspiring many to conquer the whole world for Christ through the mediation of the Immaculate Mother of God. For this reason it lends itself well to the needs of men. This Marian spirituality distilled for men we call Marian Chivalry.
The Knights of Lepanto began as a response to the frequent absence of men from the moral and religious leadership of their families, and to the moral and cultural denigration of fatherhood and masculine authority. In this climate, masculinity and religious conviction are often considered irreconcilable. Many men look upon religion and piety as a woman’s thing.
The genius of St. Maximilian was to unite in modern times an intense contemplative life with militant apostolic activity: faith put into action. This is exactly what men need. Contemplative and apostolic men are exactly what the world needs, especially in these present times of moral decay and contempt for the Church.
Paradoxically, St. Maximilian’s secret to success was devotion to Mary, another stumbling block to modern masculine piety. Big boys are not supposed to need their mothers any more, so it is thought. Imitation of Christ teaches otherwise. Our Lord himself chose to become the child of Mary and to associate His Mother with His life and work from beginning to end. Christ the Knight goes into battle for His Lady, His Immaculate Bride the Church, personified and realized in the person of Mary. All that is worth living for, which is all that is worth dying for is recapitulated in the One who is all fair, the Immaculate Queen of Heaven.
The Knights of Lepanto, therefore, consecrate themselves to Mary in a militant spirit, engendering a kind of Marian Chivalry for the modern world, translating prayer and piety into Catholic action under the banner of Mary. In the first place, then, they meet on a regular basis for formation in the faith and spiritual life. Putting faith into action, they also sponsor monthly discussion groups open to all Catholic men, organize retreats and holy hours for men, organize and execute Catholic action initiatives such as pro-life prayer vigils and public protests and other initiatives against the assaults on the sanctity of marriage and the natural law. The Knights are also engaged in the formation of boys through a sub-organization called the Pages and Squires of Lepanto.
The Marian Chivalry of the Knights of Lepanto is a formula for bringing back a virile and apostolic cadre of men back into the fray of the battle for souls. One must only take the sword from Her heart and wield it the spiritual battle that is upon us. We can fight, or we can do nothing. The choice is ours.