St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe

Matthew 18: 1-5,10,12-14
Dt 31:1-8 / Dt 32:3-12

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
(Matthew 18:1)

St. Maximilian, be my guide
That I may never be misled;
May your prayers destroy my pride
That only in Christ’s path I’ll tread.

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14)

Reflection

Today is the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan priest who founded the Militia of the Immaculata (Army of Mary), and became the famous martyr of Auschwitz. His great humility and courage was an abiding inspiration amidst the vicious brutality of the German prison guards. He was obedient, meek, and forgiving, encouraging his fellow prisoners to “Trust in the Immaculate!” “Forgive!” “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors!” He exemplified Jesus’ words: ‘Whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ Despite the ravages of starvation and the tuberculosis that he suffered, he gave his food to other prisoners, and always insisted on taking the end of the line at the infirmary.

His final act of martyrdom happened on the fateful night of August 3, 1941, when one of the prisoners in his section of the camp escaped. In reprisal, the commandant ordered death by starvation for 10 men chosen at random from his section. One of those condemned cried out that he would never see his wife and children again. Without hesitation, St. Maximilian stepped forward and offered his own life in his stead. Ten days later, after leading the other 9 condemned prisoners in prayers and hymns, St. Maximilian’s life ended in a lethal injection of carbolic acid. In 1973, Pope Paul VI beatified St. Maximilian. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

St. Maximilian gave his life so that “one of the little ones may not be lost.” By his act of great humility and courage he fulfilled his vision of receiving from his beloved Queen Mary the white crown of purity and the red crown of martyrdom, and became one of “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Let us pray with St. Maximilian, this ‘martyr of charity’ that we may also attain his virtues of humility, purity and courage.

Dear God, we pray through the intercession of our beloved Mother Mary, Queen of heaven, that in honoring the memory of St. Maximilian today, his example of child-like humility and love may draw us closer to Your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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