Tag Archives: St. Maximilian Kolbe

The Other Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2012

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Virgin Mary by Carlo Dolci Photo/JonDissed Licensed under Creative Commons

Why did Our Lady call herself the Immaculate Conception when she appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes more than 150 years ago? If she’d called herself the Mother of God or Holy Virgin, the French authorities might not have given St. Bernadette such a hard time.

It turns out that Immaculate Conception is the Blessed Mother’s married name.

No, that doesn’t mean St. Joseph is Mr. Immaculate Conception. According to St. Maximilian Kolbe, “Immaculate Conception” is the name Mary shares with her spiritual spouse, the Holy Spirit. Since she’s a creature and He is God what brings them together so intimately that they share a name?  As St. Maximilian writes, it has to do with their unique relationship and the Divine fruit of their union: Jesus.

Preparation for her vocation

What exactly is the Immaculate Conception? In the Blessed Mother’s case it means that from the beginning of her existence God willed that she would be free of original sin and filled with sanctifying grace. The Church teaches that He gave her this special grace to prepare her to be the mother of Christ. As the Catechism states,

“…In order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.” (CCC490)

I learned about this recently while reading Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory, a preparation for Marian consecration. (It’s a great book that presents Marian consecration from the point of view of not only St. Maximilian but also St. Louis de Montfort, Bl. Mother Teresa and Bl. John Paul II.)

A human being, Mary was conceived. But obviously the Holy Spirit wasn’t. So what makes Him the Immaculate Conception? Father Gaitley explains St. Maximilian’s thought that the Holy Spirit is the uncreated Immaculate Conception because He is the Life and Love that springs from the love of the Father and the Son.1

In Dwight P. Campbell’s Catholic Culture article, he quotes St. Maximilian as saying that the Holy Spirit is “the flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a divine ‘conception.’” This Love is the model for all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe.

The Holy Spirit makes Mary fruitful

Clearly, fruitfulness is part of this. Where does Mary fit into this? Because the Holy Spirit is fruitful He produces divine life in her in the womb of her soul which makes her his spouse, the Immaculate Conception, St. Maximilian writes.2

“In a much more precise, more interior, more essential manner, the Holy Spirit lives in the soul of the Immaculata, in the depths of her very being. He makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity.”3

Because of the grace of her Immaculate Conception, Mary is totally receptive to God’s love, Campbell states. She receives that love at the Annunciation and “in cooperation with the Holy Spirit makes that love fruitful — infinitely so — in conceiving the Incarnate Word.”

The fruit of the uncreated Immaculate Conception and the created Immaculate Conception is Jesus! St. Maximilian said it makes sense that as a married couple and as parents, the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother would share the same name.

“…If among human beings the wife takes the name of her husband because she belongs to him, is one with him, becomes equal to him and is, with him, the source of new life, with how much greater reason should the name of the Holy Spirit, who is the divine Immaculate Conception, be used as the name of her in whom he lives as uncreated Love, the principle of life in the whole supernatural order of grace?”4


Endnotes

1 33 Days to Morning Glory, Fr. Michael Gaitley (Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M, 2011), p. 52.
2 Ibid., p. 54.
3 Ibid., pp. 53-54.
4 Ibid. p. 54.

 

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St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr

August 12, 2011

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St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe at Holy Family in Silver Lake.

A Conventual Franciscan Priest

St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) was born on January 7, 1894, in Poland.  His baptismal name was Raymond.  As a youngster he was drawn to the priesthood, entered religious life with the Conventual Franciscans friars in 1910, and was given the religious name Maximilian.  He made solemn vows in 1918, and because of his devotion to the Blessed Mother, added Mary to his religious name.   He was sent to Rome where he studied philosophy and theology and was ordained to the priesthood in 1918.  He contracted tuberculosis, and because of his illness, returned to Poland.

Marian Devotion

Father Kolbe became a lecturer in church history in Krakow, Poland, but he is most remembered for his zeal for Mary.  Before he was ordained, he established a society to foster devotion to Mary known as the Militia of Mary, an organization of priests, religious, and laity dedicated to promote her as the queen and mother of society and a special aid in the road to conversion to God and holiness.  After ordination he also founded The Knights of the Immaculata, a monthly magazine which he edited.

A Traveling Priest

Father Kolbe traveled extensively over the next few years.  He was transferred to Grodno, near Warsaw, where he founded a Franciscan community and continued his writings.  After another bout with tuberculosis, he moved to Niepokalanow, also in Poland, which means “town of the Immaculata.”  In 1930 he made a missionary journey to Nagasaki, Japan, where he founded a second “town of the Immaculata.”  He returned to Poland in 1935 due to illness, and upon recovery, he made a second missionary expedition, this time briefly to India, then back to Nagasaki, only to be recalled to Poland to be the superior of 760 Franciscan friars.

The New Information Age

Wherever he was, at home or abroad, Father Kolbe used multimedia – newspapers, magazines, and radio broadcasts – to continue his special ministry to spread devotion to Mary, and his writings reached millions of people around the world.

World War II

The Germans invaded Poland in 1939, and Father Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo, detained for ten weeks, and released.  He continued his writings, some which promoted Polish patriotism and criticized the Nazis.  He was arrested again, this time on February 17, 1941, and imprisoned in Warsaw where he was tortured, and then, on May 28, he was transferred to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

A Martyr’s Death

At Auschwitz Father Kolbe encouraged terrified fellow prisoners, secretly offered Mass with bread and wine that had been smuggled inside, and heard the confessions of captives who were facing near-certain execution.  In July there was an escape attempt on his unit, and in punishment, the Nazis randomly selected ten prisoners to die by starvation.  Francis Galjowniczek, one of the ten, cried out, “What will happen to my family?”  Father Kolbe stepped forward and said, “I am a Catholic priest from Poland.  I would like to take his place because he has a wife and children.”  Unexpectedly, the commanding officer accepted Father Kolbe’s offer.  Galjowniczek was allowed to step aside, while Father Kolbe and the other nine were led off to the starvation chamber.  Two weeks later only four were still alive, and Father Kolbe was the only one still conscious, and the Nazis executed him on August 14, 1941, by lethal injection.

Recognition and Patronage

Pope John Paul II, a fellow countryman, canonized Father Kolbe as a martyr and saint on November 9, 1982.  Francis Galjowniczek survived, was present for the ceremony, and lived to the age of 93.  St. Maximilian is the patron saint of drug addicts and their families, as well as journalists and political prisoners.

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