Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe wore the Franciscan habit, until later when he was forced to wear the garments of a prisoner of war. The world would soon discover that what Maximilian Kolbe really did was “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).
A son of Poland, he became a Franciscan seminarian and during this period in his life he and six other seminarians formed the Militia of the Immaculata at the International College of the Conventual Franciscans in the year 1917. Members are known as Knights and Maximilian chose the Miraculous Medal as the insignia of the Knights. This was due to the conversion in 1842 of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a Jewish agnostic. This conversion came about through the use of the Miraculous Medal and this conversion story impressed Maximilian so much that in 1918 the newly ordained Father Kolbe said his first Mass at the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte in Rome, the site of this conversion.
Concerning the Miraculous Medal, Maximilian Kolbe wrote: “Because conversion and sanctification are divine graces, the Miraculous Medal will be the best means for attaining these gifts. For this reason, it constitutes a first rate weapon of the Militia Immaculatæ; it is a ‘bullet’ with which a faithful soldier hits the enemy, which is evil, and thus rescues souls.”
Two publications sprouted from the Militia: “The Little Journal” which was vanquished by the Nazis, and “The Knight of the Immaculata” which is still published today in about forty different languages.
During World War II Maximilian Kolbe and his efforts were deemed as a threat by the Nazis and in 1941 he was arrested and eventually transferred to the concentration camp of Oswiecin in Auschwitz. While there he willing took the place of another prisoner, a husband and father, who was condemned to die. He was given an injection of phenol and died on August 14, 1941. “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and later canonized by Saint John Paul II in 1982.
Virtually all of his writings are currently available in Italian and Polish. Among them, however, are such gems to meditate on like: “It is obedience and only obedience that truly reveals the divine will.” What does that say to us, the control freaks we tend to be? This statement from Saint Maximilian Kolbe surely harmonizes with Pope Emeritus Benedict’s warnings about moral relativism, the craving to be one’s own boss, one’s own pope.
Also among his writings are these words: “Indeed in our times, not without sorrow, we see a spreading epidemic called 'indifferentism' not only among the laity in the world but even among religious.” Who could argue that secularism is the “rule” of today’s culture? Virtually everyone is looking for a way that leads to a better life, everyone is searching for truth. Only Jesus, however, fits the bill. Only He is “the Way, and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Saint Maximilian Kolbe lived this divine truth. He wrote: “God, and only God, is Infinite, most wise, most holy, a most loving Lord, our Creator and Father, our beginning and end, our wisdom, power and love, God is our All.”
Saint Maximilian Kolbe also exorts us to turn to our Lady as he wrote: “Let us be directed by her, led by her; let us feel calm and secure under her guidance. She will tend to all our needs, quickly provide everything necessary for body and soul. She will remove our difficulties and trials.”
Sancte Maximiliane, ora pro nobis!