Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe
Raymond Kolbe was born on January 8, 1894 in Poland.
As a child, he had a vision of the Blessed Mother who offered him two crowns: one white, symbolizing purity, and the other red, symbolizing martyrdom. He chose both. As a young teen, he joined the Conventual Franciscan Friars and received the religious name Maximilian. He was sent to Rome to complete his studies in philosophy and theology.
On October 16, 1917, he established the Militia Immaculatae (MI) (Part Two), a public association of the faithful, which is international and universal. Its spirituality consists in living a total consecration to the Immaculata in order to attain, after her example, a more perfect union with Christ and in order to collaborate with her for the spreading of Christ's Kingdom in the world. As a student he began suffering from tuberculosis, which would impact him the rest of his life.
Ordained a priest in 1918, Fr. Maximilian returned to Poland and began his ceaseless missionary activity. He started publishing a monthly magazine –Rycerz Niepokalanów. In 1927, he also established Niepokalanów (the City of the Immaculata), where over 700 friars, totally consecrated to Mary, devoted themselves to various evangelization activities. In 1930, he went to Japan to establish a second City of the Immaculata, Mugenzai no Sono, close to Nagasaki.
He returned in 1936 to Poland. In 1939, when World War II broke out, Niepokalanów, damaged by bombs, was used as a hospital and refuge for thousands of refugees.
On May 28, 1941 he was permanently transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp as prisoner #16670, where inhumane conditions and hard labor awaited him. Giving heroic witness to the Gospel of charity, he freely offered his own life for an unknown prisoner who had been condemned to death in the starvation bunker. After nearly two weeks of intense sufferings, he was killed by an injection of carbolic acid on August 14, 1941, the eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven.
St. Maximilian was able to offer his life heroically, dying for another with a joyful spirit, as testified by eyewitnesses. His secret was love for Jesus Christ lived out through consecration to Mary. Consecration means to accept Mary as a gift given to us from the Cross (John 19) and to offer ourselves in return to love Jesus more deeply and bring about the happiness of others. This authentic happiness is found only in relationship with Our Lord who loves us infinitely.
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Little Raymond was offered two crowns, one for purity and one for martyrdom. He chose both. What do you think "purity" and "martyrdom" mean? In what ways can we accept them in our daily life?
St. Maximilian prepared his whole life to offer his life for another in Auschwitz. Our founder, Fr. Luigi Faccenda, said that he had a "heart trained." How did he train his heart? How can you train your heart?
In Part Two we will talk about the MI. Begin prayerful consideration to enroll in this movement.
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