Because this is the first day of of May – the month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I want to write about something (rather, someone) who is very dear to my heart. This entire blog is dedicated to this person; we became “friends” because we both share a great love for the same special Woman. Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s influence followed me to Carmel and one of my most memorable experiences was because of him during my time as a nun in the Carmel I came from; it was the book I had read based on his life and the skit I performed with a group of the sisters: his death scene.
Today, all I want to focus on is his story inside the Nazi-occupied Auschwitz concentration camp and how even though he died without his Franciscan habit, his Roman collar and the sacraments, he received the Crown of Martyrdom and the Crown of Chastity. What was his secret? The Mother of God, or as he so tenderly and frequently called Her – the Immaculata!
All for the Immaculata, nothing for me!
Playing the part of Saint Maximilian in his death scene skit was one of my most powerful experiences. We acted out three simple scenes: the one where he takes the place of another prisoner condemned to die, followed by that of the treacherous walk with his fellow prisoners to the cell bunker where they were condemned to starve to death and the last scene of Kolbe being the last one left to die in the cell of death. In fact, because he didn’t die he was finally injected with poison instead. Still, the look on his face even in death afterwards was as though the Woman who had been keeping him alive was forever reflected in his expression. Many of the Nazi officers later commented on how they had never seen a man like him before. Usually the starvation bunkers were filled with mass hysteria, but Maximillian Kolbe had led his companions in prayer, singing and even heard their confessions in the final hours.
This brings me to the point of comparison with where we are currently in this stage of the Coronavirus. We, Catholics are without the Sacraments. Priests can say Mass and consume Our Lord in Holy Communion, but we lay faithful can’t even go inside a church, let alone a confessional. If we are dying we aren’t able to receive the last rites and most importantly, we can no longer receive Our Transubstantiated Lord in the most Holy Eucharist. Yet, was that not the exact situation of this glorious saint? Maximilian Kolbe was at least able to offer others the sacrament of penance, but what of himself? He did not die in his holy habit, but rather in a striped prisoner’s uniform labeled number 16670. He went to his death with nothing, right? Wrong! He had his most holy Immaculata – he had Mary! Many do not know this about Maximilian, but before entering the camp he had had a very deep and intense discussion with his friars. He told them how happy he was that “heaven has been promised to me in all certainty” that not only was he given the grace of final perseverance, but he knew his name was among the elect.
How many of the saints knew that? We know so little about the elect; how many are there? Is every saint an elect? We do not know, but he knew. Once when asked “why” or “how do you know this”, his only reply spoken in somewhat of a trance was:
love the Immaculata, love the Immaculata, love the Immaculata!
Mary was his secret weapon and he called the miraculous medal Her “bullets”, used to win souls for Christ through Mary. My point in all of this is that Maximilian found himself in extraordinary circumstances; he seemingly died with nothing. Today we find ourselves in the same shoes as Kolbe in regards to having nothing sacramentally. What can we learn from this pandemic? Like Saint Maximilian, we need to “love the Immaculata, love the Immaculata”! We all still have Mary. God would never “will” an evil like this virus to sweep upon the world which has shut everything down including the Mass. But he does ALLOW it, only IF it will bring good out of evil, a greater good. Jesus expressed His ardent desire at Fatima, that He wants to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If it wasn’t clear in 1917 when He expressed this wish through Our Lady, now more than ever, we are certainly long overdue to heed Their request!
This COVID-19 is indeed from Satan and he is a “clever little devil”, but he is blind when he fails to realize that this is the perfect opportunity for all of us to embrace Mary, to establish in our own hearts, devotion to Her Heart. We do not need to question this, simply remember that Jesus desires this and let us look to Saint Maximilian, Her self-proclaimed fool. He who not only became a saint, but was numbered among the elect, simply for loving Mary. It is fascinating how the very same year Our Lady appeared at Fatima telling the world Our Lord’s desire of loving Mary, Maximilian got permission to begin the Militia of the Immaculate – an army of souls from all over the globe consecrated to Her. This is no coincidence; it is now time the whole world turn to Mary. When we discover we have nothing, fear not – this good Mother will be everything…!