Who Is St. Maximilian?

Author: Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate


St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941) was born at Pabiance, in Russian Occupied Poland. He was baptized Raymond at the Parish Church. Already proficient in virtue, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him in 1906 A. D., about the time of his first communion.

She offered him the graces of virginity and martyrdom and asked him which he wanted. Filled with zeal, he begged for both, and was filled thereafter with the most ardent desire to love and serve this Immaculate Queen.

He joined the Order of Friars Minor Conventual at Lvov in Austrian Occupied Poland, where he took the name Maximilian, and after finishing preliminary studies he was sent to the International Seraphic College in Rome to pursue doctorates in philosophy and theology.

In 1917 on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbon, renowned anti-Catholic and agnostic of Jewish lineage, St. Maximilian was moved by divine grace to found a pious association of the faithful known as the Militia of the Immaculate .

The Militia was to be a loosely organized tool in the hands of the Immaculate Mediatrix for the conversion and sanctification of non-Catholics, especially those inimical to the Church. Its members consecrated themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoked Her daily for the conversion of sinners, and strove by every licit means to build up the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart throughout the world.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1918, St. Maximilian returned to Poland to teach Church History in Cracow, where he organized the first group of the Militia outside of Italy. Because of ill health he was freed to devote his time exclusively to the promotion of the Militia, whereupon he founded the "Knight of the Immaculate," a monthly Roman Catholic Magazine promoting the knowledge, love and service of the Immaculate Virgin, in the conversion of all souls to Christ Our Lord.

The phenomenal growth of this apostolate led to the foundation of the first city of the Immaculate, Niepokalanow in 1929. This was a friary of Franciscan priests and brothers engaged in the use of all kinds of modern equipment so as to promote via the mass media the Militia through all parts of Poland.

Two years later St. Maximilian, heeding the call of the Holy Father to all religious, to come to the aid of the missionary efforts of the universal Church, volunteered to go to the Orient to found another city of the Immaculate, Mugenzai No Sono .

St. Maximilian returned to Niepokalanow, as it spiritual father, in 1936 and under his able direction the number of the friars there grew above 900 in the months preceding World War II. Publishing apostolate was producing 1,000,000 magazines monthly as well all 125,000 copies of a daily paper for the 1,000,000 members of the Militia worldwide.

After the invasion of Poland by the German Wermacht in September of 1939, the friars dispersed and Niepokalanow was ransacked. St. Maximilian and about 40 others were taken to holding camps, first in Germany, and later in Poland. By the mercy of the Immaculate they were released and allow to return home on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the same year.

During the war the friars turned to caring for about 5,000 Jewish refugees of the Poznan district as well as providing a repair shop for the farming machinery of the locale.

To incriminate St. Maximilian, the Gestapo permitted one final printing of the "Knight of the Immaculte" in December of 1940. In February of 1941, they came to Niepokalanow and arrested St. Maximlian. He was taken to Pawiak Prision in German Occupied Warsaw, Poland, and later was transferred to Auschwitz.

Over the entrance gate of this concentration camp was a sign in German, "Work makes free!". In reality, upon entering the prisoners were told that all Jews had the right to live only two weeks, Roman Catholic priests 1 month.

At Auschwitz several million Roman Catholics were put to death along with another several million persons of Jewish lineage. The objective of Hitler, in his hatred for Jesus Christ, was both to remove all witness to the truth of the original revelation of the God of Israel (the Jewish nation), as well as all who came to believe in Him in His Incarnation by Mary (Roman Catholics).

Thus, St. Maximilian, Knight of the Immaculate Virgin, was placed by Divine Providence at the very center of the ideologic and spiritual conflict of the century, and was destined by God to be the sign of contradiction to a nation given over to diabolic hatred of God and His people.

St. Maximilian, in response to the vicious hatred and brutality of the prison guards, was ever obedient, meek, and forgiving. He gave counsel to all his fellow prisoners "Trust in the Immaculate!" "Forgive!" "Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors!" He was noted for his generosity in surrendering his food despite the ravages of starvation that he suffered, for always going to the end of the line of the infirmary, despite the acute tuberculosis afflicting him.

In the end, by the maternal mediation of the Virgin Mary, he received the grace to be intimately conformed to Christ in death. For on the night of August 3, 1941 a prisoner successfully escaped from the same section of the came in which St. Maximilian was detained. In reprisal, the commandant ordered death by starvation for 10 men chosen at random from the same section.

One of the condemned, Seargent Franciszek Gajowniczek, shouted out, lamenting that he would never see his wife and children again. In his stead, St. Maximilian Mary, who had remained standing all night long during the selection of the condemned, stepped forward and offered his own life in exchange for this man. Ten days later, having led the other 9 in prayers and hymns, St. Maximilian was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid, and passed into eternal glory.

Pope Paul VI beatified St. Maximilian in 1973 and Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1982 as a martyr of charity.

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe's life and work continues today in the religious institutes of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, at the Academy of the Immaculate, and in the movement known as the Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix.

This document is part of the Home Page of St. Francis of Assisi maintained by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate are a Roman Catholic Religious Institute of solemn vows headquartered at Benevento, Italy. Their Home Page is maintained from the Marian Friary of Our Lady Queen of the Seraphic Order, New Bedford, MA, United States of America.

To Contact The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in the United States of America
By Surface Mail:
Marian Friary of Our Lady Queen of the Seraphic Order
POB 3003
New Bedford, MA 02741-3003

Email: ffi@marymediatrix.com
Website: http://www.marymediatrix.com/

On spirituality and teaching of St. Maximilian Kolbe - http://www.saintmaximiliankolbe.com