"Patron Saint for Our Difficult Century." – Pope John Paul II
"Pray that my love will be without limits."
–Saint Maximilian Kolbe in his last letter to his mother.
Maximilian Maria Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894. He would die at Auschwitz on August 14, 1941 and would be beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II.
Raymond Kolbe was the son of Franciscan tertiaries, who were impoverished weavers. He was a mischievous little boy. One day his mother, no longer knowing what to do with him, said to him: “My child, what will become of you?” He was suddenly afraid and went to pray before a statue of Our Lady there he saw the Blessed Mother who held out to him two crowns: one white for purity and the other red for martyrdom and asked him which he would care to choose. His reply? "I choose them both."
Raymond Kolbe became a Franciscan in 1910 taking the name of friar Maximilian and went to seminary in Rome and while there observed the activities of the Freemasons in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church and was inspired to found the Militia of the Immaculata. This spiritual militia was in honor of the Virgin who was destined to crush the head of the ancient serpent, master of pride and revolt. There should be an army at Her disposition, he was certain, and then she herself could do all through its well-disciplined ranks. He found willing collaborators — a small group at first — ready to consecrate themselves to her forever, for the fulfillment of her desires. This Militia is still ongoing and is also known as the Knights of the Immaculata. In the United States, the headquarters is in Libertyville, Illinois and information can be found at
The future saint was ordained in 1918. Then upon being diagnosed with tuberculosis, he returned to Poland and took up the teaching of ecclessial history in a seminary. After he came close to dying of the disease, he became even more zealous. This was a time of patience and suffering, just the foundation needed for his future apostolate!
He would found a Marian magazine and was named father guardian of a friary that would become the largest Franciscan friary in the world with 726 friars there at one point in time. He also instituted another friary in Nagasaki, Japan (that was to escape the devastation of the atomic bomb blast in 1945!) and a Magazine printed in Japanese as well.
When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Kolbe sent most of the brothers home He printed one last Marian Magazine of 120,000 copies. Those friars that remained were interned, released, and returned to the monastery, which had become a refugee camp for 3,000 Poles and 1,500 Jews.
Father Maximilian was arrested and held for several months in 1940 and released temporarily but then rearrested on February 17, 1941, on the charge that he was a journalist, publisher, and intellectual. He was sent to Auschwitz in May 1941. Priests in Auschwitz were especially vilified. One of the once horsewhipped Kolbe 50 times and left him for dead in a wood. The saint recovered some of his strength, and continued to comfort his fellow prisoners, insisting that everything, even sufferings, came to an end, and the way to glory was through the cross. Father Kolbe continued his priestly work for souls even under these conditions: hearing confessions in unlikely places and smuggling in bread and wine for covert Masses.
One day a prisoner escaped, which meant that men from the same bunker must be selected to die. In reprisal the prison guards chose ten men, whom they planned to starve to death. One was a married man named Francis Gajowniczek. Maximilian Kolbe begged the camp commandant to let him take Gajowniczek's place, "I am a Catholic priest. I wish to die for that man." The request was granted. The man whose life he saved would spend the rest of his life making known the heroism of the priest who had surrendered his life so that he could live and he himself would live to see Father Maximilian declared a Saint and a Martyr.
Maximilian Kolbe was sent to the starvation bunker where he prepared the condemned to die with dignity by prayers, psalms, and the example of Christ's Passion. Two weeks later only four were left alive and Maximilian alone was still fully conscious. His guards could scarcely bear the saint's composure, and they speeded his end by injecting him with phenol. Because of this fatal injection, Saint Maximilian is a patron of those who suffer from drug addictions.
Consecration Prayer of the Militia of the Immaculata:
O Immaculata! Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.
If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: "She will crush your head," and "You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world. " Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise you, O sacred Virgin
R. Give me strength against your enemies
Commentary on the Consecration Prayer
by St. Maximilian Kolbe
This act of consecration includes three parts: an invocation; a request that she may deign to accept us as her property; and a please that she may deign to make use of us to conquer other souls for her.
In the invocation we first say,
We turn to her under this name, because she herself deigned to give herself this name at Lourdes: "the Immaculate Conception." God is immaculate, but God is not conceived. Angels are immaculate, but there is no conception with them. The first parents were immaculate before sinning, but neither were they conceived. Jesus was immaculate and conceived, but he was not a conception, for as God he already existed before and to him also applied the words of the name of God as revealed to Moses: "I am who am, who always is and does not begin to be." Other people are conceptions, but stained. She alone is not only conceived, but also a conception and immaculate. This name conceals many more mysteries, which will be discovered in time. Thus she indicates that the Immaculate Conception belongs to her essence.
This name must be dear to her, because it signifies the first grace she received in the first moment of her existence. The first gift is the dearest one. This name is ratified by her life, because she was always unspotted. Hence she was also full of grace and God was always with her, even to the degree that she became the Mother of the Son of God.
Queen of heaven and earth
In a family, the loving parents fulfill the will of the children as much as they are able, insofar as it is not harmful for them. So much more does God, the Creator and prototype of earthly parents, desire to fulfill the will of his creatures, insofar as it is not harmful for them, that is, insofar as it is conformable with his will. The Immaculata did not bend away from the will of God in anything. In all things she loved the will of God, loved God. Hence she is justly called the Omnipotent Beggar. She has influence upon God himself, on the entire world; she is the Queen of heaven and earth. In heaven everyone acknowledges the rule of her love. That group of the first angels that did not want to acknowledge her reign lost its place in heaven.
She is queen also of earth because she is the Mother of God himself, but she both desires and has a right to be freely acknowledged by every heart, be loved as the Queen of every heart, so that through her that heart might become immaculate, similar to her heart and more worthy of union with God, with the love of God, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Refuge of sinners
God is merciful, infinitely merciful, nevertheless just and infinitely just. He cannot bear the least sin and must demand full satisfaction for it. The stewardess of the infinite value of the Precious Blood of Jesus that washes away sin, the Immaculata, is the personification of God's mercy. Therefore she is rightly called the refuge of sinners, of all sinners regardless of the number and greatness of their sins – even though the sinner would think there is no more mercy left for him. Indeed, every cleansing of the soul is for her a new confirmation of her title of Immaculate Conception. The more deeply the soul is plunged into sin, the more does the power of her immaculateness show itself, by the fact that she gives snowy whiteness to such a soul.
Our most loving Mother
The Immaculata is the mother of our entire supernatural life because she is the Mediatrix of the grace of God, hence our mother in the sphere of grace, in the supernatural sphere. She is a most loving mother, because you do not have any mother so affectionate, so loving, so godlike, so Immaculate, so wholly divine.
God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you
In a family, the father is glad at times that the mother stays his punishing hand over the child by her intercession, because justice is satisfied and mercy is shown. Not without cause is justice suspended. Similarly God, in order not to punish us, gives us a spiritual mother, whose intercession he never opposes. Hence the saints claim that Jesus reserved for himself the order of justice, giving to the Immaculata the whole order of his mercy.
In the second part of the act we say,
I, a repentant sinner
We here admit that we are not as she, immaculate, but sinful. What is more none of us can say that he has reached this day without sin, but feels himself guilty of much infidelity. We also say unworthy, because truly between an immaculate being and one soiled by sin there is in some sense an infinite difference. In all truth we acknowledge ourselves unworthy to turn to her, to pray to her, to fall at her feet, in order not to become similar to the proud Lucifer. Hence we also say,
Cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property
By these words we beg, we beseech the Immaculata to accept us. We offer ourselves to her entirely, in every respect, as her children, and as slaves of love, as servants, as instruments, and under every single aspect, under every title that anyone at any time might be able to express. We become hers as her possession and property, to use us and use us up even to complete destruction, according to her free disposition.
Make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you
To her we give our whole being, all the faculties of our soul, and therefore, intellect, memory and will, and all the faculties of the body – therefore, all the senses and each in particular, our strength, health or sickness. We offer her our entire life with all its experiences, pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent. We give her our death, whenever and wherever and in whatever way it befalls us. We give her our whole eternity. We expect that we will be able to belong perfectly to her, only then beyond comparison. In this way we express a desire and an entreaty, so that she allows us to become hers under every aspect more and more perfectly.
In the third part we pray,
Use all that I am and have without reserve wholly to accomplish what was said of you: "She will crush your head," and, "You alone have destroyed all the heresies in the whole world"
On the statues and pictures of the Immaculata we always see the serpent at her feet, surrounding the globe of the earth, as she crushes the head of the serpent.
Satan, soiled by sin, endeavors to soil all souls on earth. He hates her who was always unspotted. He waits for her heel in the persons of her children; she crushes his head in the fight in the person of everyone who has recourse to her. We ask her to use us if she wishes, as an instrument to crush the head of the proud serpent in unfortunate souls. Holy Scripture adds, quoting the verse mentioned above, And you shall lie in wait for her heel. The evil spirit really lies in wait in a special way for those who dedicate themselves to the Immaculata; he desires to insult her at least in them. His endeavor against sincerely dedicated souls always ends with his more shameful defeat, hence his fury is more violent, impotently furious.
The words, You alone have destroyed all heresies in the world, are taken from the prayers which the Church orders her priests to say about her. The Church says "heresies" and not the heretics, whom she loves, and because of this love desires to free them from the error of heresy. The Church says "all," without any exception; "alone," since "she" alone suffices. God is hers with all the treasures of grace for the conversion and sanctification of souls. No corner of the earth is excluded in the whole world. In this act of consecration we beg her to use us to destroy the whole serpent coiled about the earth, the serpent representing the various heresies.
Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls
All over the world we see unhappy, erring souls, who do not even know their purpose in life. They love all kinds of earthly goods instead of the one good, namely, God. Many, too, are indifferent to the highest love. We desire the "implanting and developing…in a most eminent degree" of the glory of the Immaculata in those souls. We beg her that we may be instruments in her immaculate and most loving hands, in order that she would not allow us to contradict her, that she constrain us, should we not want to listen to her.
And thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus
The most Sacred Heart of Jesus is the love of God toward men. His kingdom is the reign of love in the hearts of men, which Jesus manifested in the crib, throughout his life, on the cross and in the Eucharist, when he gave his mother as mother to us, and which (love) he desires to enkindle in human hearts. The implanting and developing of the honor of the Immaculata and the conquest of souls for her is the conquest of souls for Jesus' mother, who will carry the kingdom of Jesus into souls. For as far as possible,
Wherever you enter, there you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Immaculata is the "Omnipotent Beseecher." Every conversion and sanctification is the work of grace, and she is the Mediatrix of All Graces. During the apparition of the Miraculous Medal, St. Catherine Laboure saw rays streaming from the rings on the fingers of the Immaculata. They represent graces that the Immaculata liberally bestows upon everyone who desires them. Alphonse Ratisbonne speaks similarly about the rays of grace in his vision.
Allow me to praise you, O sacred Virgin
Give me strength against your enemies
When Duns Scotus, a Franciscan, went to Paris for a dispute in which he was to defend the privilege of the Immaculate Conception at the University of the Sorbonne, he passed by a statue of the Blessed Mother and prayed to her with the above mentioned words. As tradition has it, the Blessed Mother bowed her head as a sign of confirmation.
In the first part of this petition Duns Scotus turns humbly to the Mother of God and asks that she permit him to praise her. Acknowledging his great unworthiness for such a sublime work as praising the Blessed Mother, he likewise acknowledges that grace depends upon her, and it is enough that she permit him, and his efforts will be crowned with success.
The second part is strong, unconditional, brave. As an instrument in her hand, he asks for strength to overcome the serpent.
Who is her enemy? Whatever is stained, whatever does not lead to God, whatever is not love, whatever comes from the hellish serpent, he himself is her enemy; hence it includes all our defects, or all our faults. We ask her to give us strength against him. For this one purpose all devotions exist, all prayers, the sacraments: that we receive power to overcome all obstacles in our striving for God in a more and more ardent love, in assimilating ourselves to God, in uniting with God himself. Just as we have come from God through a creature, so also we return to God. All nature tells us this. Wherever we glance, we see after action reaction, equal and opposite, and as it were, an echo of God's operation and his operation also in all creatures.
On the return road of reaction the being endowed with free will meets with difficulties and oppositions, and God permits these trials in order to strengthen that being so much the more in its striving toward him. In order that the being may have sufficient strength for it, it must pray, it must ask for that strength from him, who is the source of all strength and who looks upon the efforts of his creatures with love and desires that it come sincerely to him, for he does not stint his aid. Even if that creature, that dear child of his, stumbles on the way, falls, soils itself, wounds itself, that merciful Father cannot look upon its misfortune. He sends down his only begotten Son, who by his life and teaching points out to him a bright and sure road. By his Sacred Blood of infinite value he washes away the dirt and heals the wounds.
So that the soul from fear of the violated justice of God would not lose hope, God sends a personification of his love, the Spouse of the Spirit of motherly love, the Immaculata, all beautiful, without stain, though a daughter of men, sister of human beings. He commits the stewardship of his entire mercy towards souls. He constitutes her the Mediatrix of grace that was earned by her Son. He makes her the mother of grace, the mother of souls born of grace, reborn, and continually reborn in an always more perfect godlikeness.
St. Maximilian had a great love for the Miraculous Medal which he freely distributed; he called it 'Our Lady's bullets'. But his love for the rosary was even greater and he called that spiritual weapon 'Our Lady's machine gun'.
St. Maximilian's writings include the following thoughts:
Moreover, we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate without reserve and that constitutes the essence of the M.I….All our sufferings, deeds; thoughts, words, actions, life, death, eternity and all of us are always the irrevocable possession (what a delight!) of the Immaculate Queen of heaven and earth. So even when we are not thinking of it (as we like to reflect on it) shedirects every one of our actions, prearranges all the circumstances, repairs the damage from our falls and leads us lovingly toward heaven. And through us she is pleased to implant good ideas, sentiments and examples everywhere in order to save souls and lead them to the good Jesus. But is the will of our Mom the same as the will of God? Without a doubt, but (if we can put it this way) there is a certain difference, namely, that our Mom is the instrument of God’s mercy and not, however, of His justice. Our good God, in order not to punish us, has given our Mom so that He could limit His justice as much as possible. We also through our consecration to her are instruments of God’s mercy in her immaculate hands as she is an instrument of His mercy.
"Knights," "battles" … these are all terms that have a warlike connotation. Ours, however, is not a war fought with rifles, machine guns, cannon, airplanes, poison gas … but still it is a real war. What tactics do we adopt? Before all else, prayer.
Some Catholics, less well instructed in the task of perfecting souls, often seem to do the opposite. Work, action…according to them is the fulcrum of apostolic action. But such is not the case. Prayer, prayer especially, is the effective weapon to use in the struggle for the liberation and happiness of souls. Why? Because only supernatural means can lead to a supernatural end.
Heaven (if one may say so) means the divinization of the soul, a supernatural reality in the full sense of the term. Consequently it cannot be secured by merely natural means. A supernatural means is also indispensable, i.e., divine grace. This is obtained by humble and confident prayer. Grace, nothing else but grace. which enlightens. The mind and strengthens the will, is the cause of conversion or the liberation, i.e., the deliverance of souls from the bonds of evil. But a prayer offered to God through the hands of the Immaculate cannot remain ineffective, as we say in the prayer [attributed to] St. Bernard: "Remember, 0 most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession was left unaided …. " So before all else humble, confident and unfailing prayer is needed. (November 1924)
Dearest children, I desire very much to tell you, to repeat for you, how good the Immaculate is. That way I could remove forever from your little hearts all sadness, despondency and discouragement. The word "Maria" spoken by a soul steeped in doubts, aridity and even misfortune due to sin reechoes in her heart, which loves us very much. And the greater the unhappiness of a soul sunk in its faults, the more solicitous is the care of her, the Refuge of us poor sinners.
Never worry that you do not feel this love. If you have the will to love, you already give a proof that you love. What counts is the will to love. External feeling is also a fruit off grace, but it does not always follow the will. Sometimes, my dear ones, the thought, a sad longing, as if a plea or a complaint, may occur to you: "Does the Immaculate still love me?" Most beloved children! I tell you all and each one individually, in her name (mark that: in her name!), she loves everyone of you. She loves you very much and at every moment, with no exception. This, my dearest children, I repeat for you in her name. (April 13, 1933)
To bring about the purpose of the M.I., as soon as possible, to conquer for the Immaculate the entire world and every single soul that now lives or will live till the end of the world, and through her to win them for the Sacred Heart of Jesus! In addition, we are to be watchful lest anyone remove the Immaculate's standard from a soul; but rather to deepen constantly in souls their love for the Immaculate, to tighten the bond of love between them and her, so that they may become one with her, so that she herself may live and love and act in them and through them.
Just as she belongs to Jesus and to God, so every soul will belong to Jesus and to God through her and in her in a much more perfect manner than would be possible by not going through her or without her, if, indeed, that were possible. Then souls will love the Sacred Heart of Jesus as they have never loved him up to now, because like her they will plunge more deeply than ever into the mysteries of love: the cross and the Eucharist. The love of God will be enkindled in the world through her, will set it on fire, and there will take place the "assumption" of souls through love. (April 23, 1933)
· "Up to the present our relationship, within the whole scheme of redemption, to Mary, the Co?redemptrix and Dispensatrix of all graces, has not been fully and completely understood. But in our time faith in her mediation grows day by day.”
· "As the Mother of Jesus our Savior, Mary was the Co?redemptrix of the human race; as the spouse of the Holy Spirit, she shares in the distribution of all graces.”
· "When we reflect on these two truths: that all graces come from the Father, by the Son and the Holy spirit; and that our holy Mother Mary is, so to speak, one with the Holy Spirit, we are driven to the conclusion that this Most Holy Mother is indeed the intermediary by whom all graces come to us. (Conf. Sept. 25, 1937)” · "The union between the Holy Spirit and the Immaculate Virgin is such that the Holy Spirit does not influence souls but through her mediation. Whence She is the Mediatrix of all graces, become the true Mother of Divine Grace, Queen of Angels and Saints, Help of Christians and Refuge of Sinners.”
· "The Fathers and Doctors of the Church teach that She, the Second Eve, corrected that which the first Eve spoiled, and that She is a channel of divine graces, our hope and refuge, and that through Her we receive grace from God. Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical on the Rosary (22 September 1891) points out: 'It is permitted to affirm that from that generous treasure of graces that the Lord has brought us… nothing is given us except through Mary, because God so willed it.’”
Prayer for the Grace to be an Instrument
Almighty and Eternal God, You gave us in the person of Saint Maximilian an example of true devotion to the Immaculate Mother of our Savior and of unselfish love for our neighbor.. Grant we beseech You through his intercession, that we may grow in our understanding and 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