The Eucharist, Central to Kolbe’s life of poverty St. Francis in the first Admonition contemplates the mystery of the Eucharist, as Jesus becomes present in the simple elements of bread and wine. He invites the friars, in a letter, to be poor, imitating the Lord in this dynamic of kenosis which every day takes place in the Mass. St. Maximilian is of the same thought and draws from his own love for the Eucharist the strength and inspiration for a life modeled on the style of Christ.
In the following excerpt Father Kolbe reveals his contemplative spirit and his faith in the real presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This is an article in the Polish edition of the Knight of the Immaculata in 1924: "From that moment the sacrifice of the Mass came to earth ... The priest, a successor of the Apostles, in obedience to the command of the Man-God, repeats in his memory the touching scene of the Last Supper. The bread becomes the living Body of Christ and the wine His Holy Blood. And He, the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of souls, comes out to the streets and onto the streets of his sons, carried in the hands of the priest "(SK 1059).
St. Maximilian’s words refer to the Corpus Christi procession and reveal a deep faith in the Lord's presence in the Eucharistic. He contemplates the mystery by which Jesus dwells among men. It is a wonder of love that is perpetuated, thanks be to the Holy Mass and actions of the priests. St. Maximilian comes to understand in depth this extraordinary reality; a fruit of prayer, to the attention with which he lives the celebration of Holy Mass, and his meditation and confidence in God's Word. Without a doubt, the Eucharistic dimension is central to the poverty experienced and preached by St. Maximilian.
Not to be forgotten is the pious act of the spiritual communion. It has an important value in the interior nourishment and must be cultivated when it is impossible to receive Our Lord in the sacrament. All Father Kolbe’s activities as a minister of God, a friar and missionary, both in the formation period as well as after, "rotate" around the Eucharistic mystery. In the apostolic life of the City of the Immaculate, friars are often called upon to rally around the Blessed Sacrament.
The poverty of Father Kolbe, therefore, aims to be modeled on that of Christ and Francis. They are his absolute points of reference. However, prophetically, he lives and teaches a poverty of life which takes into account the cultural and spiritual situation of the Church and of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual. It follows that the style of the religious is characterized by a mix of simplicity and welcome of what the Father gives. In practice, it is necessary to rely unconditionally in His goodness, following the example of Christ and the Immaculata, who experience a journey of self-emptying and sacrifice for the good of humanity. And the supernatural poverty practiced by St. Maximilian in line with Franciscan tradition, in his opinion, is also the springboard for the renewal of the Friars Minor Conventual.
Artwork: Maximilian Kolbe, St. Francis of Today by
Thus, we are called to trust in God and trust completely in the maternal protection of the Immaculata. This means, for what concerns the ascetic dimension, that selfishness and self-centeredness are to be 'exhausted' more and more in favor of a greater openness of mind and heart. Being poor, according to the testimony and teaching of the Polish martyr, means becoming aware of being protected and supported always by the love of God; manifested through the motherhood of Mary.
The gift of self and poverty for Maximilian come from the Eucharist. We are to receive the love of Christ and develop a spiritual life that, after his example, consists in a total offering and giving of ourselves for the salvation of mankind. Let us look, then, to Father Kolbe’s deep desire to conform himself to the Lord. Let it move us to be extremely sensitive and not afraid of the poverty around us, in order to bring benefit to those who suffer and seek our support. The poverty of the Polish saint is the expression and the result of a journey lived in the love of Christ and in His Eucharistic presence. This helps to create a path of humility and support to the poor, a path that is a wonderful prophecy in the Church.
- Does the participation in the Mass give me the opportunity to contemplate the poverty of Christ?
- Does my love for the Eucharist translate into gestures of simplicity and warmth?
- Does the Eucharist give me the strength to be a gift for others?
- Is the stripping of Christ an invitation to me to a journey of essentiality in order to be a gift for others?
- What gestures of poverty do I propose in order to make a significant spiritual growth?
Novena to St. Maximilian begins AUGUST 5.
A Light in the Dark
A light in the dark! It’s the title of the Kolbean exhibition in the friary of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Rome. It was the Polish saint’s home of formation and the founding of the MI. The martyr of Auschwitz was a light in the darkness, because, in a really terrible moment for humanity, he managed to convey the values of the Gospel and the love of Christ in places where hatred and barbarism were triumphant. Truly significant are the following words of Pope Francis, on the occasion of his visit to Lampedusa: “We have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility; we have fallen into the hypocritical attitude of the priest and of the servant of the altar that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We look upon the brother half dead by the roadside, perhaps we think “poor guy,” and we continue on our way, it’s none of our business; and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.”(Homily of the Holy Father Francis in the sports field, “Arena "on the occasion of the visit to Lampedusa, July 8, 2013).
Maximilian has been shown to have won the globalization of indifference in the concentration camp, when he gave his life for a family man. He was a light in the darkness, a source of hope for many prisoners, not only for the epilogue of his life, but for the love he was able to convey since the very beginning of his deportation. Already in the wagons of death he sang hymns to Mary. In Auschwitz, his example of love was an extraordinary force for many prisoners and convicts who, thanks to him, won the bite of fear and despair. We are all called to be a light in the dark before the great tragedies involving humanity today. John Paul II, speaking to the seminarians of the Friars Minor Conventual, said,
St. Maximilian "shines strong for the love with which he consecrated his life to the Immaculata and the heroic gift of his life for his brothers. This led him to sacrifice himself in a terrible death in the bunker at Auschwitz. He remains among us as a prophet and a sign of the new times, the times of the civilization of love. [...] He loved to repeat – ‘only love creates.’ But the optimism with which Father Kolbe faced everyday life did not make him ever forget that it is in life that there is the constant struggle of grace and sin, fidelity and infidelity (cf. Rom 7, 14-25). And just when it seemed that evil had the upper hand on him, in the horror of the extermination camp, there appeared fully Christ's victory. Father Maximilian Kolbe reaffirms, with his courageous testimony, the strength of the new creation, of which Mary Immaculate is a forerunner and example, by virtue of her being the predestined Mother of the Redeemer "(John Paul II, Address to the Friars Minor Conventual seminarians for the centenary of the birth of St. Maximilian Kolbe 1-3).
The venerable pontiff says a very important concept which is to express a dominant feature of his saintly countryman: one can be light in the darkness in the concentration camp only if this also happens in the daily life. Maximilian makes us realize that we can do big things to enlighten the world that is in darkness, if these gestures are already expressed routinely. In fact, he was light in the darkness as a young student in Rome when he founded with other friars the MI. He was light in the dark when he spread all over the world devotion to the Immaculata through the Knight (Rycerz). He was light in the darkness when he founded the City of the Immaculata (Niepokalanow), a mega-friary able to accommodate a little less than a thousand monks all dedicated to spreading the Gospel through the press and radio. He was light in the dark from 1930 to 1936 when in his missionary travels to Japan, in the name of God and the Immaculata, he accomplished what he had done in his homeland. Auschwitz represented the culmination of a journey in which every day he was able to be a light to his brothers and sisters, especially for those who were wandering in darkness.
For Reflection - What is my attitude in the face of the great tragedies of our time?
- How do I try to be a light in the darkness for others?
- How do I react to people injured by hatred and injustice?
- What is my commitment to enlighten those who fall into the abyss of pain and despair?
- How can I cross over the veil of indifference that arises on the tragedies of mankind?