From Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, author of the po... Read more
No Greater Love
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. — Jn 15:13
If you will know we are Christian by our love, as the song has it, then be certain of one thing: St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) was a Christian, and a great one.
We celebrate his feast day on Aug. 14.
His story and much of his great Marian teaching is shared in Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC's book 33 Days to Morning Glory. Let's focus here on one particular part of his legacy: he's the patron saint of addicts.
Now that can seem a little odd in such a holy, self-sacrificing, clean-living kind of man. But he died through an injection of carbolic acid in the end, after two weeks of starving and dying of thirst in the darkest corner of Auschwitz, one of the darkest places of the twentieth century. He can understand the addict, dying a long, slow death through days and nights of emptiness, imprisoned by their attachment to their idol, whether it be drugs, alcohol, porn, or anything else.
Addiction as idolatry. Sound strange? The noted new media evangelist Bishop-elect Robert Barron has pointed out an interesting relationship between addiction and the ancient Christian notion of concupiscence, or the desire for God the Creator when it has been attached to a created reality instead. We all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and nothing less can really, ultimately satisfy us than the Blessed Trinity, who is infinite Goodness, Beauty, Being, Love, and Truth. "One of the most liberating and salutary things that we can know is that we are not meant to be perfectly happy in this life," Fr. Barron teaches. "When we convince ourselves otherwise, we, necessarily, fall into one or more forms of addiction."
Even at the height of success, of pleasure, of a dose of our drug of choice, there will still come the morning after, the nagging compulsion for more: a greater achievement; more money; more pleasure; a stronger dose; a more powerful hit. We would always be plagued by "a nagging sense of incompleteness," explains Fr. Barron. "That was not an invitation to take desperate measures; it was the invasion of grace."
Similarly, St. Maximilian Kolbe's holy self-sacrifice for a fellow prisoner in Auschwitz was an invasion of grace in one of the most unlikely locations in the world. He truly stood in persona Christi, offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise to God almighty in all circumstances, showing a perfect trust in the Divine Mercy that lived out the message at the bottom of the Divine Mercy Image: Jesus, I trust in You. He also lived out the heart and soul of Marian consecration, living life under the mantle of Mary Immaculate, accepting her offer to him of the crowns of both martyrdom and purity. He is a model Catholic with his heart afire with the love of God and neighbor. Not for nothing did the Polish Pope, St. John Paul II, call him a martyr for charity.
Let us resolve to learn more about and from St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we celebrate on Aug. 14, the anniversary of his death and the vigil of the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. Let us ask him to pray for us that we too might be lights in the darkness of the present age, bringing the life and love of God to our neighbors in need. Let us ask him to intercede for all who suffer as he suffered, that they, too, may know the love of God and the Blessed Virgin in all their trials.
The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it — Jn 1:5
Check out a reflection on St. Maximilian by Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC: