ST. MAXIMILIAN KOLBE
by Father Stefano Manelli, O.F.M., Conv., S.T.D.
On October 10, 1982 at St. Peter’s, Blessed Maximilian Mary Kolbe, O.F.M., Conventual, was canonized for his most outstanding heroic virtues. It is just forty-one years ago that Father Maximilian Kolbe was martyred in the Nazi prison camp of Auschwitz, after Father Maximilian freely offered to die in the place of an unjustly condemned fellow prisoner whom he hardly knew. Pope John Paul II has declared him “the patron of our difficult century”. We are happy to publish this article to enable more people to know St. Maximilian whom God has raised up in our times as a model of deep faith, heroic charity and especially of immense love for Our Lady. The key to this Saint’s holiness is his ever-increasing love towards Mary Our Mother. Saint Maximilian set no limits to his love for God’s Mother and in practice he showed his magnificent devotion towards Her by an intense prayer life which bore fruit in a marvelous Marian apostolate during his lifetime, and he continues to guide from Heaven his Marian apostolate which uses the mass media to bring people to a greater knowledge and love of Jesus and Mary.
THE MILITIA OF THE IMMACULATA
The Militia of the Immaculata (or Militia Immaculatae, abbreviated M.I.) was born during a time devoted to earnest prayer, when Maximilian developed a plan for doing battle with the enemies of the Church and under the command of the Queen of the Universe, the unconquerable Warrioress, the Immaculate Virgin. She, whom God had foretold would triumph, together with Her Son, over the infernal serpent: “God said to the serpent: … She shall crush thy head”, (Gen. 3:14, 15).
The Militia of the Immaculata was to be an army of souls consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin as “Her own property” and as truly “docile instruments” recruited to do battle for their own sanctification and for the conversion of the enemies of the Church, the Masons in particular, who are infernal foes of Christ and the Church.
These souls dedicated to the Immaculata — men and women, youths and children — are organized in three groups, which form the three degrees of the Militia.
The first degree are those who consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Virgin in a way that pledges them to love Her and to conduct an individual apostolate to make Her loved by others.
The second degree are those consecrated to Her to conduct not only an individual Marian apostolate, but to serve in an organized one too, within some small group called a circle, or in an M.I. association or center, having its own regulations and procedures.
The third degree are consecrated souls who give themselves to the Immaculate Virgin unconditionally, placing themselves at Her disposal with all their energies and resources, without reservations, making of themselves a complete offering to God.
Saint Maximilian proposed to all these souls the loftiest heights of love for the Immaculate Virgin.
OCTOBER 16, 1917
On the evening of October 16, 1917, at First Vespers of the Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Saint Maximilian and six other friars formed the first company of the new Marian army. Just three days before, at Fatima, appearing to the three shepherd children: Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, the Madonna had asked for souls who would give themselves over to penance and prayer for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of the world.
The first response of love for the Madonna — given by St. Maximilian and the six other friars — was the foundation of the Militia of the Immaculata. That evening of October 16 in the International College at Rome, Maximilian had the first meeting with the six other friars. Three were priests and three were students of theology. They were the Rumanian Father Joseph Pal, Fathers Quirico Pignalberi and Antonio Glowinski, and student friars Antonio Mansi, Henry Granata, and Jerome Biasi.
“The meeting was held in the evening, in private,” wrote Maximilian, “behind closed doors in one of the inner rooms. We had a little statue of the Immaculate Virgin in front of us with two lighted candles …”
Maximilian read from a paper the program he had composed, and all six of his brother friars signed it. The paper read as follows:
MILITIA OF THE IMMACULATA
“She will crush thy head.” (Gen. 3:15)
“Thou alone has conquered every heresy in the world.”
I. Purpose: To seek the conversion of sinners, heretics, schismatics, Jews, etc., and especially Masons; also the sanctification of everyone through the patronage and mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate.
II. Conditions: 1) The total offering of self to the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate, as instruments in Her immaculate hands. 2) The wearing of the Miraculous Medal.
III. Means: 1) Once every day if possible one must pray to the Immaculate Virgin using the prayer, “O, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee and for all who do not have recourse to Thee, and especially for Masons.” 2) Any legitimate means may be used according to what is possible in each one’s state and condition and on the opportunities that occur. The choice is recommended to the zeal and prudence of each one, with emphasis on the use of the Miraculous Medal.
“THAT’S ENOUGH, LITTLE BOY”
Meantime Maximilian’s zeal for the salvation of souls was something very much alive and active. He would not let an opportunity pass by for exercising it, and when possible he took the initiative to accomplish something good. There are some incidents of this which are small, but significant.
Once he was on a train sitting before a gentleman who was speaking openly against religion and the Pope, Maximilian could not remain quiet. He began answering him point by point. The discussion soon became a lively debate in which the gentleman was losing ground bit by bit. Finally, they reached a certain point, and the man remarked, “That is enough, little boy! You don’t know who I am. I am a doctor of philosophy.”
“If that is the point,” Maximilian quickly replied, “I am a doctor of philosophy, too.”
This reply informed the skeptic just whom he had to deal with, and the discussion resumed more peacefully. At the end, he paid attention to the force of Maximilian’s arguments in defense of religion, the Church, and the Papacy.
TO THE GREEN PALACE
“One day,” writes Father Joseph Pal, “he proposed that I accompany him to the Green Palace, Palazzo Verde, there in Rome, in order to convert the Grand Master of Italian Masonry and other Masons. I assured him that if the Rector gave permission, I would accompany him. During the recreation after dinner he went to Father Ignudi and explained his proposal. When he returned to the courtyard where I was waiting, he was a little embarrassed, but resigned, as he told me that Father Rector had said that for the moment such a venture was not opportune and that it was better to pray for the Masons. Then and there he had me pray with him for their conversion.”
In this little incident we discover the bravery of a young apostle who felt strong enough with the strength of the Immaculate Virgin, to approach the beast in his own lair. We admire his humble submission to the will of the superior, who advised him that for the moment he should just pray. It was praiseworthy for him to promptly fulfill this advice and set about at once to pray for the Masons.
WITH TEARS IN HIS EYES
Here is another edifying incident.
The same Father Pal reports: “During the novena in preparation for the feast of the Immaculate Virgin while we were both returning home to the College of the Holy Apostles, we passed three or four workmen who were blurting out blasphemies against the Madonna as they were getting back to their work on a tenement.
“Maximilian left me in the street and hastened over to them. He asked them with tears in his eyes why they would blaspheme the holy Virgin. I made a fruitless effort to convince him that he was wasting his time, but I did not impress him. He spoke and acted so vehemently with tears the whole time that finally they apologized and said they had acted from a habit as a way of letting off steam when provoked to extreme anger. He did not stop pleading with them until he had managed to calm down their anger.”
Maximilian had an ardent temperament. The thought of the Immaculate Virgin prevailing over Satan exhilarated him. The sight of the spiritual and moral decadence that was ruining souls, spurred him to waste no time, to use every means, to try every method valiantly, in order to deliver souls from “the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of life”, (1 John 2:16).
His bravery relied purely on the boundless powers given to the Immaculate Virgin. Let people put themselves in Her hands and be Her “docile instruments” — that is sufficient, and this unconquerable Warrioress will defeat “the children of this world” (Luke 16:8) and the “works of darkness” (Rom. 13:12).
“The Madonna has no need of us,” Kolbe said; “but She condescends to make use of us in order to give us merit and to render the victory more glorious, as it is when won through poor, weak persons, and with means which, by worldly standards, are inadequate; for spiritual weapons are derided and downgraded by worldlings.
“We need to submit ourselves as docile instruments into Her hands, availing ourselves of every lawful means, pushing ahead through the spoken word and through the dissemination of Marian literature and the Miraculous Medal, and giving strength to our activity by prayer and good example.
“Therefore the means of the Marian apostolate will be to inscribe ourselves in Mary’s holy Militia with the intention of fighting under the Immaculate Virgin’s banner; also to wear the Miraculous Medal as distinctive of the Militia, at the same time offering up daily as her soldiers the short prayer in which we implore the Madonna’s protection over us and beg in particular for the conversion of Masons, who are the greatest and most inveterate enemies of the Church.”
Maximilian was an outstanding example of all this. He was truly a “docile instrument” in the Immaculate Virgin’s hands, alert to miss no opportunity to be of service to Her, especially by prayer and good example. When he was a young cleric and when he was a ripened priest, one might easily see him saying his Rosary on the streets of Rome or of Warsaw, on a train or on board ship, on the college campus and in the hallways of Niepokalanow. He had to have boundless confidence in the value of the Rosary for saving souls if he would write this little maxim: “As more Rosaries are prayed, more souls are saved.” How encouraging for one who loves the holy Rosary!
He always went about with a supply of Miraculous Medals in his pockets. He called them “bullets” or “little bombs” to open breaches in men’s hearts. He had a resourcefulness about leaving them in places best suited for assuring that people would get them.
One could describe Saint Maximilian as a perfect example of a truly docile instrument which submitted to Mary without holding back in any way.