St Maximillian Kolbe: The Martyr of Love

In this canonization liturgy there seems to appear before us that “martyr of love” of Oswiecim (as Paul VI called him), saying: “O Lord, I am thy servant. I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid. Thou has loosed my bonds” (Psalm 115 (116):16). 

With these words during the canonization homily of Blessed Maximillian Kolbe on October 10, 1982, St Pope John II, following the footsteps of St Pope Paul VI, called St Maximillian Kolbe the martyr of love, whose feast we celebrate on August 14th.

It is true, St Maximillian, the Polish Franciscan Conventual priest who was killed in Auschwitz concentration camp on that same day, in 1941, was a martyr of love, which gives of itself for the benefit of others. But, before reaching that highest point of martyrdom, this love has surely been a silent yet heroic protagonist in giving itself in everyday life. St Maximillian Kolbe’s love for Jesus translated itself also in performing the spiritual acts of mercy, particularly instructing the ignorant, counselling the doubtful, admonishing the sinners and, in so doing, comforting the afflicted. Fr Kolbe’s spiritual maxims amply show this with full force.

For Father Kolbe, indifference is the greatest offense of our time. To counter it we need to show more gratitude to God. He said: The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers. According to St Maximillian Jesus is the ultimate criterion for his suffering. For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more.

Truth is there to change us. We are to serve it, not the other way round. Outer victories make no sense unless we overcome evil by good. He said: No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs [e.g. the sacrifice of many victims] of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?

We can’t have Christ as our Brother unless we accept Mary Immaculate as our Mother. If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother. When we pray to Our Lady Immaculate our prayer becomes more efficacious. Prayer is powerful beyond limits when we turn to the Immaculata who is queen even of God’s heart. Loving Our Lady makes us love Jesus more. He said: My aim is to institute perpetual adoration for this is the most important activity.

Every place around the planet can be a city of the Immaculate (Niepoklalanow), provided that The Father is God, and Jesus, as our elder brother, is present within all tabernacles of the world. He said: The whole world is a large Niepokalanow where the Father is God, the mother the Immaculata, the elder brother the Lord Jesus in all the tabernacles of the world, and the younger brothers the people. In his writings, St Maximillian takes time to explain how the city of the Immaculate operates. Niepokalanow is a home like Nazareth. The Father is God the Father, the mother and mistress of the home is the Immaculata, the firstborn son and our brother is Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the altar. All the younger brothers try to imitate the elder Brother in love and honor towards God and the Immaculata, our common parents, and from the Immaculata they try to love the divine elder Brother, the ideal of sanctity who deigned to come down from heaven to be incarnated in her and to live with us in the tabernacle…

St Maximillian’s love for Mary Immaculate was an undivided one. He confessed: That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.

In Kolbe’s view, in the battle against Satan only the Immaculata can defeat him. Having said that, she seeks our help by consecrating ourselves to her. He observed: Modern times are dominated by Satan and will be more so in the future. The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men, even the most clever. The Immaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. However, assumed into Heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, who will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of God’s kingdom upon earth.

In another saying of his St Maximillian kept insisting that we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculata so that she could educate us to love Jesus as she does. He said: Let us give ourselves to the Immaculata [Mary]. Let her prepare us, let her receive Him [Jesus] in Holy Communion. This is the manner most perfect and pleasing to the Lord Jesus and brings great fruit to us. Because the Immaculata knows the secret, how to unite ourselves totally with the heart of the Lord Jesus… We do not limit ourselves in love. We want to love the Lord Jesus with her heart, or rather that she would love the Lord with our heart.

Faith and life have taught St Maximillian that sacrifice is the final test of true love. He said: Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving. Without sacrifice there is no love. And, furthermore, Life begins to make sense when we recognize and acknowledge God’s infinite goodness and our absolute dependence on him, Our response will be praise and total love expressed in obedience.

O Lord Jesus Christ who said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” through the intercession of St Maximilian Kolbe, whose life illustrated such love, we beseech You to grant us our petitions. (Mention here the requests you have.)
Through the Knights of the Immaculata movement, which Maximilian founded, he spread a fervent devotion to Our Lady throughout the world. He gave up his life for a total stranger and loved his persecutors, giving us an example of unselfish love for all men – a love which was inspired by true devotion to Mary.

Grant, O Lord Jesus, that we, too, may give ourselves entirely without reserve to the love and service of our Heavenly Queen in order to better love and serve our fellowman in imitation of your humble servant, St Maximilian Kolbe. Amen.

St Maximillian Kolbe, the martyr of love, pray for us!

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.