Prot. nr 0687/21 Rome, August 09, 2021
Commemorative letter on the occasion
of the 80th anniversary of the death of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe
and the 50th anniversary of his beatification
To all the confreres of the Order
To all pilgrims
“God is love;
he who abides in love abides in God
and God remains in him” (1 Jn 4,16)
The eightieth anniversary of the death of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe and the fiftieth anniversary of his beatification are an occasion to reflect on his spiritual legacy, marked by love. His imprisonment in the extermination camp of Oświęcim (Auschwitz), crowned with his death in the starvation bunker, represent for us the absurd historical circumstance which reveal the chronicle of an ever-growing itinerary of holiness and love.
The darkness of the cell, illuminated by the prayerful testimony of Saint Maximilian, and his words of comfort addressed to his unfortunate companions in captivity, transform the place that symbolizes the irrationality of man into an altar on which the human and priestly dignity of the Franciscan friar are exalted to illuminate “this difficult century,” as Saint John Paul II affirmed.
An itinerary of love
Unconditional love is the clearest sign that distinguished the life of our holy martyr.
First of all, the love for the Mother of God that filled the heart of little “Ramon” – still a child – and that in adolescence led him to put on the Franciscan habit; the dedication with which he applied himself to his formation and studies; the ability with which – despite his young age – he was able to interpret the events of that particular moment in history; moreover, his love for religious fraternity, his choice to live his Catholic priesthood in an authentic manner; and his love for humanity, witnessed by his tireless work of evangelization and his commitment to the correct formation of the conscience of the people of his time; all of these led him to arrive at the “gift” of his “consecration to Mary Immaculate”, offered to the Church and the world, through missionary zeal and finally the love of total oblation in martyrdom.
All this is not the work of human will alone but is a virtuous itinerary that bears witness to the experience of God’s love as the formative motivation in the life of the Holy Martyr.
The key to interpreting this prophecy is not so much being virtuous (since we would risk failing to do so), but being “lovers”: believers full of love for others. This is the path for our days: to give oneself in generosity as an oblation offered and pleasing to God.
The prophetic presence of God lived by St. Maximilian is nothing other than the presence of God’s Love made salvific history for the people of his time.
As Pope Francis writes ” … history gives signs of a return to the past. Anachronistic conflicts that were thought to be outdated are reignited; closed, exaggerated, resentful and aggressive nationalisms are resurrected…. and the good, as well as love, justice and solidarity … must be conquered every day” (cf. Brothers All, 11).
Here is the prophecy: in a world driven by various systems of self-interest and dehumanizing regimes, living and witnessing to love, charity, dignity, and a saving interest in others.
New creatures in the hands of the first redeemed creature
Perhaps we will never be able to bring to completion in us a total act of consecration to the Immaculate, as did our Saint. From many aspects it has been rightly pointed out that his was not a simple devotional act. I like to consider his total consecration to the Immaculate as the most sublime of devotions: a total abandonment, existential, a full consistency in our lives in God, following the example of the Immaculate who let herself be completely permeated by the action of the Holy Spirit.
It is therefore not simply a matter of being altruistic in this “difficult century”, but of being new creatures.
In the first creature redeemed by virtue of the merits of her Son, in Mary Immaculate, we too can become new creatures, renewing our baptismal consecration. This is the Christian way of offering a newness of life to our century: to become new persons in order to create a new world.
Father Kolbe teaches us not to be afraid to dream, because with the Immaculate One, we can do great things.
Conclusion and greeting
At the conclusion of this letter, I wish to consider with hope and confidence the gift of holiness that God has raised up in his servant St. Maximilian.
But above all, I address myself to those who invoke him – and there are many – and who, with confidence follow his example, consecrating themselves to Mary Immaculate so that they may be part of a renewed commitment to give witness to God’s love for humanity.
Saint Irenaeus of Lyon affirms that “the glory of God is the living man.” This vision of the importance of humanity in the eyes of God can help us to understand how the labor of charity is a way of dignity for our brothers and sisters of every age. It is a way that allows us to be instruments of God in the hands of the Immaculate, to die to ourselves and rise to new life. The offering of our lives becomes, then, the supreme act by which we truly build the civilization of Love.
I greet all the confreres of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual and all others who have made pilgrimage to celebrate this significant anniversary.
All Good in the Lord! May God’s blessing and the protection of our Seraphic Father Saint Francis be with you all.
Friar Carlos A. Trovarelli