About Saint Maximilian Kolbe


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Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe is perhaps one of the best known saints of our times.

fr max kolbe
Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Raymond Kolbe, was born in Poland in 1894 and from the early days of his youth, was a great apostle of Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God.

When Raymond was a young child, his mother said to him, “I do not know what will become of you!” Later, Raymond told his mother, “Mama, when you said to me: ‘Raymond, I do not know what will become of you,’ it upset me very much, and so I went to ask the Blessed Virgin just what I would become. Later, at church, I asked her once again. Then she appeared to me, holding two crowns, a white one and a red one. Tenderly she looked at me and asked me which one I would choose; the white signified that I would always be pure, and the red that I would die a martyr. Then I answered the Blessed Virgin: ‘I choose both!’ She smiled and disappeared.”[1]

Raymond took the name ‘Maximilian’ upon entering the Conventual Franciscan Order in 1910. Even before he was ordained a priest, Maximilian had an unquenchable desire to win every soul in the world for Jesus through Mary and named his work Militia Immaculatae (Militia of Mary Immaculate) or M.I.

“The M.I. was founded just four days after the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima and the Miracle of the Sun witnessed by 70,000 people. Our Lady of Fatima had her battle plans and weapons (consecration to her Immaculate Heart, penitence and the Rosary) ready to checkmate the Communist takeover of Russia, which occurred just a few weeks later.

“The Medal of the Immaculate Conception (popularly known as the Miraculous Medal) figured very prominently from the very beginnings of the Militia Immaculatae in St. Maximilian’s mind and actions.”[2] “The medal honors Mary in her great prerogative of the Immaculate Conception, and also depicts Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces….

“On the opposite side we are reminded by the two Hearts, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that the whole purpose of the Militia Immaculatae which he founded in 1917 in Rome is to establish, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus throughout the whole world in every soul living and to the end of time-and that ‘as soon as possible, as soon as possible!’”[3] The petition printed on the front of the Miraculous Medal reads: ‘Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

Later, Father Kolbe built two great cities dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. One, in Poland, was called Niepokalanow, which means “City of the Immaculata” and quickly became the world’s largest religious community. The other was in Japan and was named, Mugenzai No Sono which means “Garden of the Immaculata.”

“In 1933, while returning from the Orient to Poland, [Father] Kolbe summarized the Immaculate’s role and his own apostolic objective:

“‘We have to win the universe and each individual soul, now and in the future, down to the end of time, for the Immaculata, and by her for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Further, we must be on the watch so that nobody tears any soul away from its consecration to the Immaculata; we should strive rather that souls may constantly deepen their love for her, that the bond of love between her and these souls may grow ever closer, and these souls may henceforth be one with her, with her alone.

“‘This is how the Immaculata is able to live and to act in these souls, and through them. For just as the Immaculata herself belongs to Jesus and to God, so too every soul through her and in her will belong to Jesus and to God in a much more perfect way than would have been possible without her. Such souls will come to love the Sacred Heart of Jesus much better than they have ever done up to now. Like Mary herself, they will come to penetrate into the very depths of love, to understand the cross, the Eucharist much better than before. Through her, divine love will set the world on fire and will consume it;…. When, oh when, will the divinization of the world in her and through her come about?’”[4]

Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, Father Kolbe was imprisoned for a time and then released; however, he was arrested again in 1941. One of Father Kolbe’s cellmates gave this eyewitness account:

“Father Maximilian was still wearing his black Franciscan habit. A few days after he was assigned to this cell, an inspection was made by the head section guard. When the guard saw Father Maximilian in his religious habit, he stopped short. He face reddened with anger. He looked at him momentarily, then turned his questioning to the cellmate. This done, he approached the Franciscan and snatched at the crucifix which was hanging from the white cord around his waist. ‘And you believe in this?’ he shouted in the face of Father Maximilian. And the calm reply: ‘Most certainly, I believe in it.’  At this the guard turned red with rage and brutally struck the priest in the face. Three times he repeated his question, emphasizing it with fresh blows. Three times came the same reply….Despite the blows, the Franciscan remained perfectly calm, and were it not for the welts rising on his face, one would scarcely have known that the incident had occurred.

“After the guard left, the poor victim began to walk slowly up and down the cell. He knew that his cellmates were irritated and excited. To calm them, he said: ‘There is no reason for excitement. You have enough serious troubles of your own, so it is foolish. All this is for our ‘Mammina.’”[5]

On May 28, 1941, Father Kolbe was sent to the horrific concentration camp at Auschwitz. On July 31, 1941, it was announced that a prisoner in Block 14 had escaped. As punishment, ten other inmates would be sentenced to death by starvation. Father Kolbe was not one of the ten men chosen to die. However, seeing that one of the chosen was a husband and father, Father Kolbe stepped forward and offered his life in exchange. The offer was accepted and Father Kolbe joined the other nine prisoners in the starvation bunker. One by one the other prisoners died. After two weeks of the tortures of starvation and thirst, Father Maximilian Maria Kolbe was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Thus, Father Kolbe had accepted the red crown of martyrdom shown him in his childhood. Like the other prisoners, his body was burned. It was the eve of the feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

“The inspiration of his whole life was the Immaculata. To her he entrusted his love for Christ and his desire for martyrdom,” said Blessed John Paul II during the homily of the Canonization of Father Maximilian Maria Kolbe.

“It is impossible to separate the name, the activity and the mission of Blessed Kolbe from that of Mary Immaculate.”[6]

[1] Fr. Jeremiah J. Smith, O.F.M. Conv., Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Knight of the Immaculata (TAN Books and Publishers, Rockford, IL, 1998), pp. 3-4.

[2] Kolbe, Saint of the Immaculata, edited by: Brother Francis M. Kalvelage, FI (prepared for publication by the Franciscans of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2001), p. 74.

[3] ibid, p. 75.

[4] Father James McCurry, O.F.M. Conv., Mariology of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, as cited in Kolbe, Saint of the Immaculata, edited by: Brother Francis M. Kalvelage, FI (prepared for publication by the Franciscans of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2001), pp. 106-107.

[5] Fr. Jeremiah J. Smith, O.F.M. Conv., Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Knight of the Immaculata (TAN Books and Publishers, Rockford, IL, 1998), pp. 83-84.

[6] Pope Paul IV, Beatification Homily of Maximillian Kolbe, October 17, 1971.