St. Maximilian, Martyr of Charity

Today is St. Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day, and I am so incredibly thankful for this saint (for a short bio, click here). In many ways, this Polish Franciscan friar and priest is responsible for the love I have developed for Mary and the closeness I feel to her, and consequently, the flourishing of my relationship with God. He has reunited me to the mother from whom I was separated at birth, the mother I did not know I had, and she has nourished me with love and care as her own child. Through Fr. Kolbe, not only did the doctrines of the Catholic Church regarding Mary really start to make sense, but the love for my Mother, our Mother, started to flow out of my heart, bringing me to this most beautiful woman who would show me the great love of her Son for me and for the world.

St. Maximilian’s love and devotion to his Mother show through every word that he wrote, the life that he lived, and the death that died. He earnestly desired that every soul be brought to Jesus through Mary, and it was out of this burning desire that he began the Militia of the Immaculata (MI). The MI’s motto is “to lead every individual with Mary to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus,” and St. Maximilian worked tirelessly to bring this goal to fruition. He used the modern methods of the printing press to spread the love of Jesus and Mary to so many. Ultimately, he hoped to spread consecration to Mary, that she, with the Holy Spirit her spouse, would form these persons into Christ.

Fr. Kolbe knew he was a tool in the Immaculata’s hands. He knew his life was not his own, but rather hers to be offered up for the life of the world and the salvation of souls. Even from a young age, after his own mother died, he gave himself to the Blessed Mother. He placed himself at her feet as a child and learned to love. Thus, it should come as no surprise that he should see a stranger as a brother, and willingly take his place to die in a starvation bunker while in Auschwitz, only to survive and, two weeks later, die by a fatal injection of carbolic acid on August 14, 1941. Truly, St. Maximilian’s Mother formed him into her Son, Jesus, whose love led him to lay himself down for his friend. Mary had been teaching him, always, to love—to kneel with her at the cross of Jesus, no matter the cost, no matter the pain. This is where the life of Christians is born.

Pope John Paul II canonized St. Maximilian Kolbe a saint and “martyr of charity,” and truly, there could be no better name for him. St. Maximilian is compelled by love, and thus compels others by love—because this is what Mary does—she brings us to her Son, the Man who is Love.

The Cross, the manger, all the other mysteries in the life of Jesus are proof of his love for mankind. Who reflects upon it will repay that love with love…

Now, who loved the poor Lord Jesus in the manger and on the Cross more than his Blessed Mother? Neither angels nor human beings so love God as did the Mother of God. Let us not limit our love; let us love Jesus with her heart, for she loved him with that very heart. Let our love for God be the very love of the Immaculata.

For this to be a reality we must be hers; entirely, completely and in every way, hers.

And so, once again Crosses fall upon our shoulders, and the grace of God warming our hearts will inflame them with so great a love that they will be afire with a desire for suffering, a thirst for sacrifice. Yes, sacrifice without limit, for we love our Father and Best Friend, and his Immaculate Mother. Suffering is a school built upon and sustained by love. (Kolbe 86)

St. Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of journalists, families, the pro-life movement, prisoners, the chemically addicted, and those with eating disorders.

For more information on St. Maximilian, the Militia of the Immaculata, and consecration to Mary, check out the MI’s website. There are some really great resources to prepare for consecration, all in the spirit of St. Maximilian, including excerpts from his writings. If you are curious why anyone would devote themselves to Mary, these also help explain why Mary is so important to the spiritual life and the life of the Church.

For some reading from Kolbe and on his spirituality, these are fantastic:
Will to Love, St. Maximilian Kolbe
Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, Fr. H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, OP

For more reflections on this saint, take a look at this earlier post, “St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Response to Modernity,” by Zachary Nelson.

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