Saint Maximilian Kolbe – August 14th
Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan who was martyred on this day during the Second World War after offering his life in exchange for one of his fellow prisoners. This is the heroic act that we usually associate with Saint Maximilian, but we’d be mistaken to think that this act was just a decision of the spur of the moment or some impulsive act. Rather, it was the fruit of a life lived in union with God and the Blessed Mother, a life of constant obedience and love of which that decision was simply the last fruit.
The key to Maximilian’s life was at all times and in every moment to be obedient to God’s will and to strive to become a saint, which he did by consecrating himself to Mary, abandoning himself to her. At one point, as the saint lay very ill from tuberculosis, he asked his brother to lay his glasses and his watch before a statue of Our Lady. Once he recovered, he explained that “the eyeglasses are a symbol of my eyes; the watch, a symbol of time; both of these are consecrated to her.” Writing later of this time of illness, he would say: “When it was clear that all other means were powerless, when I was considered as lost and my superiors found me unfit for any work, it was then that the Immaculata appeared on the scene to gather up this poor debris which was not even fit for a waste basket. She took this good-for-nothing and she used it to spread the glory of God. For a moment, picture in your mind a great painter who painted his best work with a worn-out brush: Our Lady is that painter, and I am the brush.” His rules of life summarize this well: the short list includes the following: “I must be a Saint, and a great Saint.” “For the glory of God I must save myself and all souls, present and future, through the medium of the Immaculate.” “Let your rule be obedience—the will of God through the Immaculate Mary—I am nothing but her instrument.” This union with God and with Mary came about in prayer: even though his friars were very busy, they still, as a rule, had three and a half hours a day of prayer.
Saint Maximilian was truly devoted to Mary, and always emphasized her importance in the conversion of sinners. “Modern times are dominated by Satan,” he wrote, “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.” Through Mary’s intercession, then, let us ask for the grace to seek and to strive after holiness, and to follow the example of Saint Maximilian as we try to do all things for Jesus through Mary.