The Fool of the Immaculate
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe: A most faithful follower of St. Francis
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe (1894-1941 A. D.), a member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, was beatified in 1973 by Venerable Pope Paul VI and canonized in 1982. Pope John Paul II took that occasion to explain why he had chose to canonize St. Maximilian as a martyr: for in sacrificing his life at Auschwitz to save the life of a father of a family from certain death in the starvation bunker, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe attained to a particular and exceedingly close conformity to Jesus Christ, who while we were yet sinners, laid down His own life to redeem us from the everlasting damnation of Hell.
St. Maximilian was born in Poland and studied for the priesthood as a Conventual Franciscan in Rome, Italy. While in Rome, he was inspired to found the Militia of the Immaculate, a public association of the faithful for the conversion and sanctification of all souls by means of devotion to and service of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Upon returning to Poland after WWI, St. Maximilian promoted this movement among the friars of his own religious institute as well as among the diocesan clergy and laity. In 1923, with the financial assistance of an American priest, he began a monthly magazine for the members of the Militia known as the Knight of the Immaculate.
St. Maximilian’s own devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as Mediatrix of All Grace, overflowed upon all he met. By 1928 He obtained permission of his superiors to found a new friary, entirely devoted to Her service. This was and is known as Niepokalanow. It lies about 60 miles outside of Warsaw, Poland. In this friary St. Maximilian anticipated by divine grace the authentic reforms of the Second Council of the Vatican as they regard religious life. There the Marian spirit of St. Francis of Assisi was lived once again by all the friars. They bound themselves to Her by vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and total consecration. They prayed, worked, and lived together for the conversion and sanctification of all souls throughout the world, in the quickest, surest, easiest manner, that is, by introducing them to the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the authentic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
By 1939 Niepokalanow had almost 1,000 friars, and published several million copies of newspapers and magazines, books, periodicals, pamphlets to promote the knowledge and love of the Blessed Virgin. The Militia of the Immaculate had grown to over 1,000,000 members in nearly all the nations of the globe. During the Second World War, St. Maximilian was imprisoned by the Nazi’s and sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where he died the death of a martyr of charity on 14th August, 1941.
The Life and Mission of St. Maximilian Kolbe Reborn
The religious community begun at Casa Mariana (Frigento, Italy), along the lines and in accordance with the counsels of St. Maximilian, was erected by His Holiness Pope John Paul II as a religious institute of diocesan rite in 1990. On that occasion the Holy Father explained that this was for the preservation and propagation of the life and mission of St. Maximilian Kolbe in the Roman Catholic Church.
[Source: Franciscans of the Immaculate]