St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Response to Modernity

I was prompted to write this post because of something my Catholic seminarian friend, Andrew Lane, shared on Facebook. His post was this:

Today Love is being killed. We want to blame hate, because it’s repulsive. But I think there are few who are truly hateful. Love is not just being choked by hate.

It is being smothered by indifference. Indifference is the ugliness that often goes unseen. It doesn’t attract attention, but it’s everywhere. It’s in you and it’s in me. It has many faces: negligence, selfishness, infidelity to God and man. It, not hate, corrodes the love between spouses. It is indifference that destroys families. It turns faith into a vague belief accepted shallowly, a myth clung to in immaturity with no bearing on our lives.

Indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love.

When you look into your own soul, don’t let yourself just say, “I’m fine. I haven’t killed anybody.” Ask God to show you where indifference resides in your heart, and ask Him to cast it out!

Hell is a real place. However, it is not just the home of the hateful, but of the indifferent. Because, when God called them to love, they were too lost in themselves to care.

Although our friendship is very young, I believe his post is indicative of a soul formed in the spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe—a Polish Catholic priest (and Franciscan Conventual) during WWII who was a “Martyr of Charity” in Auschwitz when he voluntarily chose to be put to death in the place of another prisoner. Kolbe devoted his life to defend the Catholic faith and inspire fervent love for Christ through the Immaculate Mother.

Kolbe’s war was against, among other things, indifference. While Kolbe was studying in Rome, Italy, he witnessed fierce demonstrations conducted by the Freemasons. They shouted things like “Satan will reign from Vatican Hill. The Supreme Pontiff will be his servant” and waved a flag of St. Michael the Archangel being trampled by Lucifer. The Freemasons were calculating and organized. They knew they could not destroy Catholicism by reason, but by the corruption of morals. Freemasons propagated that “species of art and literature that most easily corrupts chastity and destroys a sense of morality, so that all parts of human society might be influenced by this sordid propaganda” (Kolbe) As a consequence, “Wise and strong men are weakened, families torn apart, hearts corrupted and an insane bitterness grows up” (Kolbe). How can men like those at the Freemason rallies act “according to a determined plan, way, and purpose” toward such a wicked end, and yet Christians remain so lukewarm? This was Kolbe’s chief concern—and it is as relevant today as it was then.

What Kolbe saw in the Freemasons is even more ubiquitous today. There are men who seek the ruin of souls through mass media, consumerism, and endless other distractions. These things constantly stir the soul to comport itself to earthly, temporal things. As St. Augustine says, “You seek happiness of life in the land of death, and it is not there” (Confessions IV.12). Modern habits nourished by the spirit of liberalism and personal autonomy have created a new form of bondage. Our lives are perpetually unsettled and restless. Cardinal Sarah notes in The Power of Silence how “Without noise, man is ferverish, lost. Noise gives him security, like a drug on which he has become dependent… But this noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine, diabolic lie that helps man avoid confronting himself in his interior emptiness. The awakening will necessarily be brutal.” As my friend Andrew said above: “look into your own soul,” and you will find with the help of God the affections that have been paralyzed by modernity.

When Kolbe saw that evil men could scheme in such deliberate, organized ways, he responded by founding the Militia Immaculatae (the Knights of Mary). The goal was straightforward: “To lead all men and every individual through Mary to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” The “Immaculata must become queen of each and every soul” he said. But why?

Out of the superabundant grace of God, since He has so deigned that all earthly children should have a mother, He also gave His children a spiritual mother, His own Mother. The special privilege Mary enjoys is best seen in her being the Mediatrix of all Graces. All graces which flow from God pass through her Immaculate hands before they are distributed throughout the world. Such a special role in the economy of grace requires the supernatural work of God in the life of Mary. While remaining a creature, the Immaculate was so intimately united to the Holy Spirit from the time of her conception that she is sometimes called the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” With Mary’s fiat, she accepts her role in salvation history. She has a will perfectly aligned with that of the Father. God gave Mary “such a heart that she could not envision any pain that would not move her to be concerned for the salvation and sanctification of every human being.” When she distributes the graces received from God, she distributes them according to a love that is enflamed by God.

Mary, in her perfect humility, leads people to the Sacred Heart of her Son Jesus Christ. She is the ladder by which all are led to Christ, even if they do not recognize or acknowledge her role. Kolbe rightly acknowledged her role, and thought she would play an essential role in helping the Church deal with modern ails.

Kolbe had a grand vision for the Militia Immaculatae which is still active today. In his native Poland, Kolbe established a monastery-city called “The City of the Immaculate,” which is where Franciscan friars worked on their publication, “The Knight of the Immaculate.” It is believed to have been the largest Catholic publishing center in the world at the time. The city is a perfect example of what Kolbe thought the MI could achieve by the grace of God. He envisioned whole cities being founded for the cause: cities that had their own infrastructure, laborers, educators, laypeople, and religious. He wanted a small cultural cell that was consecrated to Our Lady and devoted to bringing Catholic truth to the lost souls of the world. The primary way of doing this was through the “Miraculous Medal”—what he called the “silver bullet” against evil.

Kolbe was anything but indifferent, even though he continually struggled with setbacks. He struggled with the financial support needed to build the City of the Immaculate and with tuberculous since studying in Rome. Nothing held him back from the mission. And where did all of this lead him? To Auschwitz. Because the Knight of the Immaculate published material condemning Nazism, he and his fellow friars became a public enemy to the Nazis. He died in the Auschwitz camp (August 14, 1941) on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. He was starved for a week, and then injected with acid, taking the place of another prisoner who begged not to be killed. It was indeed a heroic act of charity, a charity that was cultivated in the school of Mary.

Kolbe’s life sheds light on many things, but there is one of particular relevance today: indifference kills the soul. Zeal and desire for the will of God may very likely kill the body, but it will save the soul. To be so enthused for God is to put yourself at enmity with Satan and the world. You could lose everything—especially the esteem and praise of men. But in exchange, all will be gained through Christ. Mary, our Immaculate Mother, is here to help our pilgrimage on earth. Trust in her maternal care, and you will never stray. Offer yourself up to her as her property, and she will perfect your good works. Do the will of God, and she will bring you to the Sacred Heart of her Son.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!


Here is a video on St. Maximilian Kolbe’s life and the founding of the Militia Immaculatae.

Here are some resources from the website of the Militia of the Immaculata:

How to become a member of the Militia

The prayer of Total Consecration to Mary in the form of St. Maximillian Kolbe  

What is Total Consecration?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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