Novena to St. Maximilian Kolbe
This novena is traditionally begun on August 6 and ends on August 14, the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Use the menu below to pray the opening prayer, find each days reflection and the closing novena prayer.
(To be said daily)
O St. Maximilian Kolbe, faithful follower of St. Francis,
inflamed by the love of God
you dedicated your life to the practice of virtue
and to works of the apostolate.
Look down with favor upon us
who devoutly confide in your intercession.
Having consecrated yourself to the Immaculate Virgin Mary,
you inspired countless souls to a holy life
and various forms of the apostolate
in order to do good to others
and to spread the kingdom of God.
Obtain for us the grace by our lives and labors
to draw many souls to Christ.
In your close conformity to our Divine Savior
you reached such an intense degree of love
that you offered your life to save a fellow prisoner.
Implore God that we, inflamed by such ardent charity,
may through our living faith and our apostolic works
witness Christ to others,
and thus merit to join you in the blessed vision of God. Amen.
MAXIMILIAN'S CALL TO HOLINESS
Reading: Raymond Kolbe was born of poor parents in Poland on January 7, 1894. Raymond came to love the Blessed Virgin quite early in life. This devotion did not prevent him from getting into trouble! His lively nature tried the patience of his mother. Once she remarked in exasperation, "Raymond, what is going to become of you?" After this incident there was a noticeable change in his behavior. His mother became worried. Upon questioning him, she found Raymond at first reluctant to tell her his "secret." Finally he told her how much her reproach had troubled him. He had prayed to Mary, and asked her the same question, "Mother of God, what will become of me?" She took compassion on the miserable boy and appeared to him holding in her hands two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked Raymond which one he would choose; the white signified purity, the red martyrdom. "I choose both" he answered.
Meditation: Evey genuine conversion experience be it that of a mischievous child or that of a hardened adult involves the individual's humble recognition of his own weaknesses and capacity for sin. May Maximilian's humility be ours in our pursuit of Christian holiness through ongoing conversion.
MAXIMILIAN DISCERNS GOD'S WILL
Reading: When Raymond Kolbe was a seminary student at Lwow, Poland, he bowed his face to the floor during Mass one day and promised the most holy Virgin that he would fight for her. It was a surprising thing to do, especially since he had already chosen to be a Franciscan priest. Not knowing how he was to fulfill his promise he began to picture to himself a struggle with material weapons. The more he thought about it the more he felt attracted to a military career, fighting for the freedom of his homeland under the banner of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Finally, he decided he had made a mistake: he would give up the idea of studying for the priesthood. He was on his way to inform the Minister Provincial of his decision when he was called to the parlor. His mother had just arrived for a visit. What Maria Kolbe told her son we do not know, but shortly afterward Raymond was invested in the Conventual Franciscan habit and took the name Maximilian Maria. On September 5, 1911, he made his first vows. The following year, another crisis arose, and again Maximilian Kolbe's destiny hung in the balance. His superiors had decided to send him to Rome for philosophical and theological studies, but Friar Maximilian requested that his name be stricken from the list. That night he reconsidered. Had he not placed his own will in the way of God's will as expressed by his superiors? Was it not better to obey? The following morning he told his Provincial that he was prepared to go to Rome.
Meditation: Discernment of the direction that God wishes our lives to take requires an absolute truthfulness with oneself and God. May Maximilian's inner honesty be ours as we strive continually to do God's will.
MAXIMILIAN'S CONSECREATION TO MARY
Reading: It was in Rome that Friar Maximilian learned the true meaning of his call to fight for Mary. Exposed to the rabid anti-Christian forces that burgeoned in Europe he saw the need for a new era of evangelization that would bring all peoples back to God. Suddenly during prayer one morning, Friar Maximilian was enlightened to understand the critical importance of the role God had given Mary in this work. Meditating on the Miraculous Medal conversion story of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a young nineteenth-century Jewish agnostic, Friar Maximilian was illumined to perceive Mary's role as the Holy Spirit's indispensable partner and instrument in the evangelizing work of conversion and growth in holiness. He saw that this work was a spiritual war with Satan, and that Mary needed consecrated souls to serve as her knights in this battle. Maximilian lost little time putting this inspiration into action. On October 16, 1917, he and six fellow Franciscans established the Militia of the Immaculata (MI) movement. Its goal was as simple and vast as the Church's mission: the interior transformation of all souls in Christ through the Immaculata. To achieve this goal, Friar Maximilian proposed a practical spirituality of "Total Consecration to Mary." He and all "MIs" would make a free and total offering of themselves to Our Lady, so that they might become instruments in her work for Christ.
Meditation: True consecration to Mary is a Marian way of living a life of close union with Christ through the Holy Spirit. May we find in Maximilian's spirituality of Marian consecration a powerful means for living Christ's Gospel and spreading it to others.
Reading: After his ordination, Father Maximilian returned to Poland in July 1919, worn by tuberculosis. Despite his poor health, he was assigned to the Franciscan friary at Cracow where the climate is fatal to tubercularsas as university professor. Not only was his body exhausted but at times his soul was harrowed by ridicule from some of his own Franciscan confreres. He had hoped on returning to interest all the friars at Cracow in his work. A good number of priests, brothers and student friars did respond to his call, but others shrugged their shoulders. They listened to him, then laughed among themselves, calling him a bore and a dreamer. One friar even found a nickname, which delighted the detractors for awhile: "Marmalade." The young priest walked very slowly, like animated marmalade, to avoid any abrupt movement that could provoke hemorrhage. Maximilian bore this mockery with patience and mildness. Faith, alone, allowed him to find in God and the Immaculata the affirmation and support that some of his confreres initially denied him.
Meditation: When all seems lost and one is stripped of everything, there remains one vital source of spiritual energy: faith. May Maximilian's faith be ours, especially when adversity robs us of the affirmation and support we crave.
Reading: Scarcely two months after his arrival in Japan and the first publication of a Japanese version of the Knight of the Immaculata, Father Maximilian was summoned by his superiors to defend this enterprise at the Province Chapter in Lwow, Poland. Obedient as always, he left Japan for this meeting, but his heart was heavy because there was no one capable of maintaining the gigantic work in his absence. Father Maximilian had no doubts that only through full obedience would his own labors for the Immaculata's cause be fruitful. At the chapter, the very future of the Japanese Niepokalanow was put to question. The expenses were heavy, and the capitular friars discussed the prudence of undertaking such a foolish venture. Father Maximilian followed his usual tactics. Having explained all his arguments and spoken from the abundance of his heart, he remained silent, waited, closed his eyes, with his hands under his capuche he held his rosary and very slowly while his superiors discussed the business he summoned his council, reciting innumerable Hail Marys. He won on all scores and returned to Japan with full permission to continue the Immaculata's work there.
Meditation: Submission to legitimate authority frees us from the tyranny of our own willfulness, stubbornness or selfishness. May Maximilian's obedience to authority in the Church move our consciences along the lines of a more generous obedience to Christ's chosen representatives.
Reading: On February 17, 1941, Father Maximilian was arrested by the Gestapo for the second time. Subjected to extreme cruelty throughout his captivity, Father Maximilian prepared himself and his fellow prisoners for the ultimate moment: "They will not kill our souls . . . they will not be able to deprive us of the dignity of a Catholic. We will not give up." Love was to impel Father Maximilian to become a "martyr of charity" in the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. After the escape of a prisoner, ten inmates were condemned to death by starvation. Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek cried out, "What will happen to my poor family?" At that moment, Father Maximilian slipped out of line, and boldly asked the commandant if he could take the place of Sergeant Gajowniczek. The astounded officer consented. Amidst the horror of the death bunker, love triumphed. Daily prayers, rosaries and hymns were heard as Father Maximilian ministered to his nine fellow victims. Finally after two weeks, on August 14, 1941, the Nazis hastened Maximilian's death by the injection of carbolic acid.
Meditation: True charity always places the needs of others ahead of our own because true charity sees Christ himself mirrored in the face of others. May Maximilian's total love for God and neighbor always through the Immaculata characterize our own approach to Christ in others.