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St. Maximilian Kolbe

by Father Stefano Manelli, O.F.M., Conv., S.T.D.

On October 10, 1982, at Saint Peter's, Blessed Maximilian Mary Kolbe, O.F.M., Conventual, was canonized for his most outstanding heroic virtues. It is just forty-five years ago that Father Maximilian Kolbe was martyred in the Nazi prison camp of Auschwitz, after Father Maximilian freely offered to die in the place of an unjustly condemned fellow prisoner whom he hardly knew. Pope John Paul II has declared him "the patron of our difficult century." We are happy to publish this article to enable more people to know Saint Maximilian, whom God has raised up in our times as a model of deep faith, heroic charity, and especially of immense love for Our Lady. The key to this Saint's holiness is his ever-increasing love towards Mary Our Mother. Saint Maximilian set no limits to his love for God's Mother and in practice he showed his magnificent devotion towards Her by an intense prayer life which bore fruit in a marvelous Marian apostolate during his lifetime. He used the mass media to bring people to a greater knowledge and love of Jesus and Mary.


Saint Maximilian is portrayed here in his Conventual Franciscan habit. In his right hand, he holds a copy of his Polish magazine and a copy of the Japanese editions of his Marian publication. In both nations, he founded flourishing religious communities which very successfully published great numbers of these magazines promoting devotion to Jesus and Mary. On his left shoulder is the prison garment and number which he wore in the Nazi prison camp of Auschwitz, where he died a martyr's death in 1941. Like so many saints, he was very devoted to the Rosary.

Many Vocations

Meantime the Immaculate Virgin was working another greater wonder for Saint Maximilian.

The dream of carrying Her to everybody and of making Her Queen of all hearts in the Church Militant on earth, could not come true without souls entirely dedicated to Her cause. If the Knight of the Immaculata is to flourish, new hands and hearts with energy and love are necessary to carry it ahead to its full development.

Indeed, this "dream," which seemed like another foolish venture that he had launched, moved toward fulfillment in a swift, striking way.

Saint Maximilian's great love for the Immaculate Virgin became productive of religious vocations. "For men to be worthy of the Immaculate," he said, "their souls must be consecrated." The work of the Immaculate Mother is not a commercial enterprise. It is infinitely more than all that."

It must have been the first time in the history of the Franciscan order that one saw friars busy at printing machinery, immersed in their work in perfect silence and in the spirit of prayer. St. Francis could not help but rejoice at seeing his own friars spending themselves for the glory of the Queen of the Order.

Men were arriving in a continuous flow of various ages and conditions. Their coming raised a new problem, namely, to find enough room for them to stay and contribute their work. In the old friary all the quarters that had been abandoned were again fully used. But the number of vocations still grew as well as the circulation of the review and the membership of the Militia, which now exceeded a hundred thousand.

So then another venture was launched of which Saint Maximilian had been dreaming. It was the most beautiful of all the dreams of his great love. It was the founding of a complete city, the "City of the Immaculata."

The Site Of The City

Saint Maximilian immediately began to look for a site suitable for starting this Marian stronghold. He wanted it to be a short distance from Warsaw, as this would facilitate the transporting and mailing of his publications.

He went searching, and found an ample plot of ground in the Teresin acreage. It was the property of Prince Drucki-Lubecki. He arranged to see him and asked if he could set up on that land his printing plant and some living quarters for the friar-knights of the Immaculata. The prince was favorably impressed by the friar, and willingly granted all he had requested, under one condition, namely, that Maximilian assure him of the perpetual celebration of two Masses a year for his, the prince's, parents.

Maximilian promised to obtain the arrangement for the Masses from his superiors. Meantime, overjoyed, he went to the Teresin acreage, and before everything else set up a beautiful statue of the Immaculate Virgin because he was taking possession of a site that was to serve Her interests.

Continued Issue No. 23