Saint of the Week: St. Maximilian Kolbe

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“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”

FEAST DAY: August 14
PATRON SAINT of families, journalists, drug addicts, prisoners, and the pro-life movement 

When you think of Marian Devotion, a handful of saints stand out because of their genuine love and intense dedication to the Blessed Mother — one of them being St. Maximilian Kolbe. 

Born in 1894 as Raymond Kolbe to a poor, Polish family, he used to drive his mother crazy with his mischievous behaviour. Out of frustration, she once yelled at him, “Raymond, what will become of you?!” This shook young Kolbe to the core that he immediately turned to the Blessed Mother and pleaded her for an answer to this question. He went to a church and asked her again. Kolbe recounted what happened next: 

Then the Virgin Mother appeared to me holding in her hands two crowns, one white and one red. She looked at me with love and she asked me if I would like to have them. The white meant that I would remain pure, and red that I would be a martyr. I answered yes, I wanted both. Then the Virgin looked at me tenderly and disappeared. 

This encounter was a foreshadowing of his life to come. In 1917, he founded an organization called “Militia Immaculata” whose goal was to bring the whole world to God through Christ under the generalship of Mary Immaculate. In 1918, he was ordained a priest and he professed his religious vows (one of which was chastity) — this confirmed the first crown: purity. 

In 1941, after decades of fruitful apostolic labours in Poland and Japan, Kolbe was arrested by the Nazis and taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp where he endured beatings that almost killed him. Still, he would secretly hear confessions and speak to other prisoners about God’s love. One day, a prisoner escaped, so the officers agreed to kill 10 men as punishment; they would be dropped into a pit and left there to starve. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a man who had a wife and children. On the eve of the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, the second crown of martyrdom was confirmed when the officers found Kolbe still alive and praying, and finished him off with a lethal injection. After his death, the news of Kolbe’s great love spread to the whole world. Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1982, and declared him to be the Patron Saint of the 20th Century. 

KOLBEAN PRAYER FOR THE GRACE TO BE AN INSTRUMENT
Almighty and Eternal God, you gave us in the person of St. Maximilian an example of true devotion to the Immaculate Mother of our Saviour and of unselfish love for our neighbour. Grant we beseech you through his intercession, that we may grow in our understanding of love of the Immaculata; that we may recognize her presence, her voice, her love and her power with us and be filled with an ardent desire and will to fulfill her will in every detail, and thus become sharers and true instruments of her most perfect response to you, in the Holy Spirit through Christ our Lord. Amen.