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The Angelus - February 2011
St. Maximilian Kolbe: In His Own Words
Many good books have been written about the life and the doctrine of Fr. Kolbe but unfortunately access to his very own words is not easy for Anglophones who do not know Italian or Polish. This is a great shame because these words have a profound simplicity and power about them that only the Holy Ghost can give. What is more, we have a large volume of his personal writings and conferences from very sure sources which provide texts that are furnished with all the guarantees of authenticity that even the most severe critic could require, especially in what concerns his writings. The monumental Scritti Kolbiani of Fr. Cristoforo Zambelli provide an excellent Italian translation of the entire corpus of Fr. Kolbe’s writings, including all his articles and letters and even the journals he kept and personal notes of his retreats and other matters.1 There exists also in Polish a collection of notes taken by his Brothers of spiritual conferences that he gave to them in Poland and also in Japan.2 It is in order to enable English speakers to have immediate access to some of this immense treasure that this little selection of his words has been compiled. –A Dominican Friar
Endnotes1 Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe, Editrice Nazionale M.I., Rome, 1997. References to this work will be made by the initials SK followed by a number corresponding to the number used in this edition to identify all the various writings of Fr. Kolbe.
2 Konferencje Swietego Maksymiliana Marii Kolbego, Wydwnictwo OO. Franciszkanów, Niepokalanów, 1990. References will be made to this work by the simple initial K followed by the number of the conference. Critics generally question the absolute reliability of these notes, but even though it is certain that they are not always complete and perhaps sometimes not precisely accurate, they were obviously prepared with great effort and a scrupulous care not to attribute to him things he did not say. They remain an invaluable source of his doctrine that must not be neglected, for they are a precious witness of his personal teaching to his closest disciples.
Prayer Is Necessary
- In order to maintain our consecration to the Immaculate and progress in it, we must constantly renew these truths in ourselves and our relationship with Her either by suitable books, or meditations, etc. But what is most important the Immaculate Herself will dictate to us in humble prayer. (K 60, 1936)
- The words “through the Immaculate” are a mystery and not everyone manages to understand them. (K 92, Aug. 10, 1937)
- This is a mystery which surpasses our intelligence, therefore we cannot fathom it. We will not learn it in books, but only on our knees. (K 71, April 25, 1937)
- He who loves will know the Immaculate much more than a philosopher or a theologian. (SK 983 Spiritual Exercises, October, 1937)
- It will be a very good thing to study Mariology, but let us always remember that we know the Immaculate more in humble prayer and in the loving experience of daily life than in learned definitions, distinctions and arguments (although it is not licit for us to neglect them). She is such a sublime person, so close to the Most Holy Trinity that one of the holy Fathers doesn’t hesitate to call Her “complementum Sanctissimae Trinitatis,” that is, “the complement of the Most Holy Trinity.” It is no wonder, then, if the limited intelligence of man should lose its bearings when it wants to investigate Her mystery and a presumptuous brain will be stupefied even more. (SK 634, July 28, 1935)
- Thank the Immaculate that She has given you the grace to understand practically her mystery—as Blessed Grignion says—and pray that She deign to concede this grace also to the others. In fact, it is not so much with our limited intelligence, as by the grace of the Holy Ghost that the conviction of these sublime mysteries penetrates our hearts and develops there. But here it is indispensable to have much, very much humility. (SK 654, November 1935)
- In general it can seem that we already know, that we are already acquainted with who the Mother of God is, but in reality we must confess that we know very little about Her. There are a few books about it, but all that isn’t much, they are just little first tries. It is like an unknown world.…
What can we do in order to know, with such great profit, who the Most Holy Mother is? First of all, we must not trust in our own intelligence. The intelligence is too weak to be able to manage on its own. Here it is not sufficient to think for oneself. Reasoning can lead to a detour. Grace is necessary, supernatural light is necessary, prayer is necessary. Only prayer can obtains this knowledge of who the Most Holy Mother is. This is the efficacious means to arrive at this knowledge.
It is necessary, then, to pray and with humility, it is necessary to tell oneself clearly that even the just falls seven times a day (Prov. 24:16), even he who can be called just, so much more so ourselves… The Most Holy Mother is without the least stain of sin, She is holy, full of grace, that She was worthy to become the Mother of God Himself. With such humility, then, we, unworthy, must present ourselves before Her.
But also the prayer for this grace, that we might know who the Most Holy Mother is, let it be with humility, with deep humility. Duns Scotus left us a perfect example of such a prayer when he said: “Deign to let me praise thee, O Sacred Virgin, and give me strength against Thy enemies.” Therefore with such a humility we must pray to Her as to the Immaculate, as to one being in closest union with God. Let us humbly pray that She might be so gracious that she deign that we might glorify Her, that we might venerate Her. Obviously, humble prayer doesn’t exclude thinking about this, reading about it, meditating about it. Read much about the Most Holy Mother, think about Her often, meditate about Her often. But the foundation, as it were, is prayer, humble prayer. And not only read, but also pray before reading, and in the meditation ask her to enlighten us, because we are not worthy of the grace of knowing who she is. (K 103, Sept. 25, 1937)
- In order to understand more profoundly who the Immaculate is, it is absolutely indispensable to recognize one’s own nothingness, and resolve to offer a humble prayer in order to obtain the grace of knowing Her and do all that one can to experience in one’s own life Her goodness and power. It is well worth it to try. (SK 1225, Feb. 2, 1938)
- When you gird yourself in preparation to read something on the Immaculate, don’t forget that at that moment you are entering into contact with a living being who loves you, and who is pure, free from all stain.…She Herself will manifest Herself through the intermediary of the thoughts you will read and will communicate thoughts, convictions and sentiments that the author himself was utterly incapable of imagining. (SK 1306, Aug. 5-20, 1940)
- Human language must serve merely to make the soul approach Her, because it will be She Herself Who will manifest Herself more and more clearly to the soul.…Approaching directly to Her heart you will attain a greater knowledge of Her and be inflamed by a greater love for Her than all human words together could teach you. (SK 1317, Aug. 5-20, 1940)
- Our dependence on Mary is greater than we can imagine. We receive all graces, absolutely all of them, from God through the Immaculate, who is our universal mediatrix with Jesus. (SK 1219, Rycerz Niepokalanej, December 1937)
- God the Father, through the Son and the Holy Ghost, does not make supernatural life descend in the soul except through the Mediatrix of all graces, the Immaculate, by Her consent, by Her collaboration. She receives all the treasures of grace as Her property and distributes them to whom She wills and in the measure that She Herself chooses. (SK 1310, Aug. 5-20, 1940)
- As the first-born, the God-man, was not conceived but by the explicit consent of the heavenly Virgin, thus also, and not in any other way, it happens in the divine birth of other human beings, who must exactly imitate in all things their Prototype. (SK 1295, 1940)
- I pray you to tell the Brothers not to be afraid at all to love the Immaculate too much since…they will never love Her like Jesus loved Her. Now all our sanctity consists in imitating Jesus. He who approaches Her, by that very fact approaches God, he just does it by following the shortest, surest, easiest road. (SK 542, Nov. 2, 1933)
- The Most Holy Mother is Mediatrix of all graces without exception.…Therefore the life of grace of a soul depends on the degree of its closeness to Her. The closer a soul approaches Her, the more pure it becomes, the more lively becomes its faith, its love becomes more beautiful and all virtues, being the work of grace, are strengthened and vivified. We cannot seek grace anywhere else, because She is its Mediatrix. (K 284, Oct. 19, 1940)
- The conversion and the sanctification of a soul has been, is now, and will always remain, the work of divine grace.…But grace, for ourselves and for others, is obtained by humble prayer, by mortification and by fidelity in the accomplishment of our own ordinary duties, including the simplest ones. The more a soul is close to God, the more it is pleasing to God, the more she loves Him and is loved by Him, then the more efficaciously she is able to help also others to obtain divine grace, the more easily and fully is her prayer heard. Consequently also the Immaculate—being without stain, totally belonging to God—is so absolutely full of grace and the Mediatrix of all graces for all other souls. And we, recognizing our weakness, our frequent falls, our separation from God, we turn to Her precisely for this: to obtain every sort of grace for ourselves and for others. (SK 925, Dec. 1, 1940)
- Let us never fear to pray directly to Our Lord Jesus, to the Most Holy Trinity; precisely the more we are given up to the Most Holy Mother, the more boldly will we do this, for we have Her (to pray) for us. (K 25, June 13, 1933)
- All our perfection depends on the close union of our will to the will of the Immaculate. As soon as we are united to the Most Holy Mother, to Her will, to Her desires, to Her affections, then immediately we can have no doubt about our spiritual progress. The more we are with Her, the more we will be Her, God Himself, if I may speak this way, because then our will, our actions, our progress will not be ours but Hers, and therefore divine, for the Immaculate is so closely united to God that whatever is Hers is, by that very fact, divine. The way we must follow is with the Most Holy Mother to Our Lord Jesus and with Our Lord Jesus and the Most Holy Mother to the Most Holy Trinity. One can go to Our Lord Jesus or the Most Holy Trinity directly, not excluding, however, the Most Holy Mother, for to tend toward God without Mary, if it is with an express exclusion of Her, is pride and something diabolical, and the essence of sin is always pride, that is, non-conformity with the will of God and the will of God is this, that we go to Him by this road, that is, through the Most Holy Mother.
Let us suppose someone wants to go to Danzig and he says: “Will I go to Danzig or will I go to the train?” Certainly, by the train to Danzig. Or someone wants to go on the roof, so he says : “Will I go on the roof or on the ladder?” Obviously, by the ladder onto the roof. Thus we also do not have a surer and easier road to heaven than the Immaculate.
Let us strive only to belong to the Immaculate, to be Hers, completely Hers. If we give ourselves to Her, She Herself will lead us to the Heart of Jesus, to the Blessed Sacrament, to the Most Holy Trinity. When we approach Her, then truly will we know and love Our Lord Jesus. Precisely for this reason do we sit on the train so that we can go to Danzig.… (K 25, June 13, 1933)
- We know that the most perfect of all creatures is the Mother of God. She is Immaculate, full of grace, all beautiful. And God receives in her the greatest glory. She is so perfect and united to the Holy Ghost that She has been called His Spouse. Everything goes ordinarily from the Father through the Son and the Spirit and, in return, again through the Spirit and the Son to the Father. This is why we love and honor so much the Immaculate, because She is so holy and because the Holy Ghost acts through Her. That is why we offer Her everything: our whole life, our death and our eternity, so that She dispose of us according to Her will. Such a soul, who has offered herself without limits to the Immaculate, expresses by this that she wants to seek Jesus in Her and through Her alone, and through Jesus make her way to God the Father. In practice we know that the soul that is completely and without limits offered to the Immaculate understands Jesus and the divine mysteries better. For the Mother of God cannot lead anywhere else—only to Jesus. Our holy father St. Francis said “My God and my all.” But such a soul can boldly say also: “The Immaculate and my all, all—all.” Whatever is outside of Her cannot be the object of our love. In Her we find all. She is, in a certain sense, the personification of the Holy Ghost. That is why we love Her ardently. (K 85, June 20, 1937)
- The Lord God decreed that we should receive everything from God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost—the Immaculate. This is the unique route for all grace.
In the Old Testament one addressed God directly in fear and trembling. Our Lord Jesus Christ came and taught us to address ourselves to God the Father through His mediation, saying that no one comes to the Father but by Him (Jn. 14:6). And from that time Holy Church especially emphasizes the honor due to our Lord Jesus Christ and in all her prayers adds “through Christ our Lord.” Nonetheless the relation of creatures to God was not yet ideal—creature and Creator, the infinite and the finite. Thus Jesus said to the Apostles: “Now you cannot understand this and you will understand only by the Holy Ghost” (cf. Jn. 16:12-13). For far more perfect is the honor given to God through the Holy Ghost, that is through the Immaculate, His Spouse, Whom He penetrates entirely, to the point that He is, as it were, incarnate in Her, only they remain two persons and two natures. The will of the Immaculate is most intimately united to the will of the Holy Ghost, in such a way that it is completely identified with it. That is why when we give ourselves to the Immaculate and accomplish Her will, by that very fact we give ourselves to Jesus and we accomplish His will—but in the most perfect way that man can ever attain. Thus we become, as it were, immaculate, and therefore more agreeable to God and it is no longer us, but She through us and in us who offers a most sublime honor to the Most Holy Trinity. Every prayer through the mediation of the Immaculate and every act of accomplishing Her will glorifies God and adores Him in the most perfect manner, for it confesses His infinite omnipotence in creating a being so perfect, so sublime and so holy. The Immaculate is this…link, this lever that unites us to God. In so far as She is a creature She is close to us, but in so far as She is the Mother of God She touches the Divinity. That is why also the honor offered to God by the Immaculate is the highest, the most perfect, the most adoring honor and procures for Him the [greatest] glory. If we were to leave aside the Immaculate, we would greatly displease the Most Holy Trinity.
In all boldness we can affirm that our highest ideal is the Immaculate. A man cannot rise any higher than this. The Immaculate is the highest degree of perfection and sanctity of a creature. No man will ever attain this celestial summit of grace, for the Mother of God is unique. However he who gives himself without limits to the Immaculate will in a short time attain a very high degree of perfection and procure for God a very great glory. All through the Immaculate, in the Immaculate and for the Immaculate. (K 180, July 3, 1938)
- Our acts, even the most holy of them, are not without faults, and if we wish to offer them to Christ pure and without stain, we must present them directly to the Immaculate alone and give them to Her as her property, in order that She offer them, as Her own, to Her Son. (SK 643, Oct. 10, 1935)
- Through the Immaculate our acts of love become without stain, since they belong to Her, just as we do. (SK 1298, first months of 1940)
- If we belong to the Immaculate, then everything we have belongs to Her also and Jesus accepts everything that comes from us as if it came from Her, as if it belonged to Her. In this case She cannot leave these actions imperfect, but renders them worthy of Herself, that is immaculate, without the least stain….That is why Satan wants absolutely to separate souls from union with the Immaculate, because He knows that a soul who excludes the mediation of the Immaculate offers to Jesus gifts that are so full of imperfections that they are more worthy of chastisement than recompense. And the worst of it is that these gifts are poisoned with pride, because one believes that one has no need of the Immaculate. (SK 1301, Aug. 5-20, 1940)
- From now on it will not be just we ourselves who offer these daily affairs to God, but it will be She, the Immaculate, of whom we have become the property, who will present them to God. Mary, then, offers all this not as if it were ours, full of faults and imperfections, but as Her own personal property, since we, along with all that is ours, belong to Her.…The Immaculate, however, cannot offer to God anything that is stained with sin. We see, then, that in Her immaculate hands our imperfect actions become pure, without stain and, therefore, incomparably more precious. (SK 1226, Brochure, March 1938)
- The soul offers to the Immaculate its own acts of love not as one consigns an object to just any intermediary, but as Her property, as Her complete and exclusive property, since it understands that the Immaculate offers to Jesus these acts as if they were Her own, which means that She offers them without stain, immaculate; Jesus, then, offers them to the Father. (SK 1310, Aug. 5-20, 1940)