“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference.” —St. Maximilian Kolbe
“There are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?” —St. Maximilian Kolbe
When St. Maximilian Kolbe was a child, he wanted to be a soldier. He was drawn toward the military life: for his school projects, he would draw fighter aircraft and, once, even a strategic plan to conquer the city of Warsaw. However, from a very young age he had an even greater desire to be a priest, and this became his main focus. When he was fifteen, though, the political events that threatened his native Poland began to stir up his latent desire to fight for his country. As outside forces attacked his beloved nation, he became filled with righteous anger. He wanted to stand up for his country and defend his people in a time of great injustice. In fact, he very nearly turned away from his religious vocation to join the army. But the support of his family and spiritual advisors helped him to realize that he was needed as a priest, now more than ever.
St. Maximilian Kolbe was indeed a soldier, one who wore not an army uniform but a Franciscan habit—and, later, the striped uniform of Auschwitz. He was a soldier for Christ and the Church, a warrior of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He learned that the most powerful way to defend his people and fight for righteousness was to be a vessel of God’s love in the world. In the face of hatred and Nazism, of the ugliest parts of humanity that one could ever witness, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe did not waver, did not cower. He held always in his heart the face of the Blessed Mother, and he viewed even the worst atrocities of the world through the lens of her gentleness and grace. Each day, he went to battle through prayer and bold, truthful writing, undaunted by the threats of German soldiers. He formed an army to fight alongside him: the Militia Immaculata. The small, daily battles he engaged in as a voice against the current prepared him to make the ultimate sacrifice in Auschwitz, laying down his own life to save another man.
This is the paradox of the Christian life—that to become a true warrior, Maximilian did not achieve glory in the battlefield and crush his enemies in a display of power. No, the Christian life does not entail earthly glory; rather, it contains the hidden glory of the Cross. The warrior St. Maximilian died in a dank prison cell, emaciated and frail, through a lethal injection at the hands of Nazi soldiers. Through the bitter end, he never surrendered, never compromised his passion for the Church. He laid down his life to defend his people. He sacrificed his visions of glory in order to become an even stronger force for good.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us, that when we are faced with the surges of evil forces in this world, we might stand our ground as unwavering witnesses of God’s truth, beauty, and love. Stir up in our hearts a passion for goodness and to defend our neighbor, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Mother. Amen.
2. Photo of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe / PD-US