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"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20

 

St. Maximilian, martyrdom and suffering in the 21st century

Laura DeMaria

There is something which has been on mind recently, which is Mary's role in bringing peace to the world. Lately I have been revisiting many of my Legion books, pamphlets, materials, and even the talks I gave when I was Legion president, and re-familiarizing - or perhaps truly taking in for the first time - what it means to have a Marian devotion. Specifically, her very express role as a peace-bringer, on a dramatic and global scale. She is humble, yes, but powerful, endowed with the ability to crush the head of the serpent. And oh, how he fears her. All of this seems even more relevant than maybe even two years ago, as our country goes from news cycle to news cycle, tragedy to tragedy, division to division. While I know it is the intrinsic manner of a lifetime on earth to be full of suffering, one must ask, where and how does it end? 

And if Mary promised peace through consecration and reparation (Fatima), and peace did not come (WWII) because mankind did not do as she asked, how much worse off are we now, with the absolute erosion of Christian culture everywhere? Prejudice against Christians is truly the last acceptable form of bigotry.

Today is the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the priest who was a martyr for the faith in Auschwitz. He was there because he was a priest; he died because he gave his life for another. I came across an unbelievable resource today, on Christian clergy and religious life in Auschwitz, which you can read here. Kolbe is mentioned at the end. Before that, you will read in more detail about the overall condition of Christians, specifically priests, who had been deported to the concentration camp for supposed anti-German subversive behavior. I have visited Auschwitz, and been inside the infamous cell block 11. Reading about the priests and Catholic faithful who died there for their faith somehow brings those memories back, in a worse way. I think partially because I wonder, would I have been so brave? Would I offer my life for a stranger; would I have risked my life for a clandestine prayer group and a chance to participate in a Mass? Would I die for it?

By all accounts, Maximilian Kolbe was an extraordinary man, even before his internment. He was, also, deeply devoted to Mary (took the middle name "Maria") and founded the Militia Immaculata (Army of the Immaculate One). His devotion started young; evidently at 12 he had a vision of the Virgin Mary:

"That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both."

Pope St. John Paul II named him "The saint of our difficult century." But then, I believe he could be the patron of this one, as well.

I am only beginning to read and find more of his philosophical writings, particularly on Mariology. He was, without a doubt, a believer in the necessity for all mankind to consecrate ourselves to Mary in order to bring peace:

"Modern times are dominated by Satan and will be more so in the future. The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men, even the most clever. The Immaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. However, assumed into Heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, who will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of God's kingdom upon earth."

This is very interesting to me. It is not just by being a good Christian that we properly serve Our Lady and her son, but by consecrating ourselves. Also, it is not in our hands - human hands - to solve the world's problems, of course. A devotion, dependence and reliance on the Virgin Mary to bring peace is the only way.

I will leave you with this quote from the patron saint of our suffering century (in my opinion, this one and the last):

"Never be afraid of loving Mary too much. You cannot love her more than Jesus did."

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.