Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe (Jan. 8, 1894 – Aug. 14, 1941) died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, during World War II, and is remembered as a “martyr of charity” for dying in place of another prisoner who had a wife and children. He was canonized by St. John Paul II on October 10, 1982. Present at the canonization was Franciszek Gajowniczek, one of the ten men from his barracks picked to suffer death by starvation as punishment for the escape of a prisoner. His life was spared when Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
St. Maximilian is also known for his missionary work, his evangelistic use of modern means of communication, and for his lifelong devotion to the Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. He said that “with the help of the Immaculate we are capable of everything.” St. Maximilian demonstrated this adage by unselfishly giving up his life to save another, imitating Christ’s love for humanity in giving up His life for the salvation of souls.
In giving up his life to save a family man, St. Maximilian Kolbe became the patron saint of families. He is also the patron of amateur radio operators, drug addicts, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.
One of the most important lessons that St. Maximilian taught was that holiness is nothing more than obedience to the will of God in every circumstance of life: “Christian perfection consists in the union of our will with the will of God.”
It is in setting our hearts and our will on God that we are able to love even the most difficult people in our lives. The apostle John says, “We love, because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). Jesus even went so far as to command us to love.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35
Have you ever wondered how by loving others, you are witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? There is no better witness than loving others, most especially when they are behaving at their worst. How important this is in family life. We all have our moments when we behave in ways that wounds or offends others. We may find it easy to love the unwed mother of two down the street or a homeless person in need of a hot meal. But those closest to us are the ones we often find hardest to love. With Jesus in us, and working through us, we can shower His love and affection on others, especially those we find most difficult to love. St. Maximilian said that “the essence of the love…does not lie in affections or in sweet words, but solely in the will.” Love is not a feeling; it is an action of the will.
And it is not in the extraordinary that love is exhibited. It is best shown in the daily duties of life: working, cooking meals, doing laundry, yardwork, bandaging scraped knees, changing diapers, or staying up all night with a sick child. St. Maximilian stated, “Do not forget that holiness consists not in extraordinary actions, but in performing your duties towards God, yourself, and others well.” In everyday tasks, done without complaining, we are showing love to those around us.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. John 15:9
Remain close to Jesus. Let Him fill you with His love. Go and share that love with your family, friends, neighbors, and the world. May people encounter the love of Jesus Christ through your witness to the Gospel.