The Sacrificial Love of St. Maximilian Kolbe

The Sacrificial Love of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving. Without sacrifice, there is no love.

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Love Requires Sacrifice
To love is the will the good of the other. Because of this, true love naturally requires sacrifice. When we love, we should be willing to set aside our own wants and needs, but our culture is selfish and needs to understand that without sacrifice, we can’t love others truly. Love is a choice, not a feeling, so when we love, we get uncomfortable and even suffer. I notice that my generation needs to understand this, so I recommend that we look to a 20th century priest and martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe.

The Sacrificial Love of St. Maximilian Kolbe

St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Life
Raymund Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894. When he was a child, he asked the Blessed Virgin Mary what would become of him. She responded by appearing to him, showing him a white crown and a red crown, and asking him if he would accept either of them. He understood that the white crown represented celibacy and the red crown represented martyrdom. Raymund told the Blessed Mother that he would accept them both.

When Kolbe joined the Conventual Franciscans, he was given the name Maximilian. He was passionately dedicated to the conversion of souls and shared the Gospel through various mediums. During his priesthood, he founded a publishing company which printed the magazine “Rycerz Niepokalanej,” or “King of the Immaculate.” He eventually founded a newspaper and a radio station as well, using the media of the time as a medium for evangelization.

Maximilian Kolbe had a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother. In particular, he loved the Immaculate Conception and often meditated on this Marian title. While I was preparing for my Marian Consecration, I read about how he established the Militia Immaculata, which inspires total consecration to Mary for the salvation of souls. His mission was to create an “army” of consecrated souls for Mary. Kolbe said “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”

Click here to read about my Marian Consecration journey!

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Laying Down His Life
In 1941, the German Gestapo arrested Maximilian Kolbe. After a few months in prison, he was transferred to Auschwitz. One night, three men escaped from the death camp. To retaliate, the Nazi guards randomly selected ten men to die of starvation. The tenth man that they selected, Franciszek Gajowniczek, burst into tears. He knew that he would never see his wife or children again. Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and revealed that he was a Catholic priest. He had no wife or children, so he offered to take the place of the young man. The Nazis granted him this benevolent request, and they locked him and nine other men in a room to die. During his final days, Kolbe led the men in prayers and songs and helped them stay calm and joyful. He made their dark cell like Heaven on earth.

After two weeks, the guards returned to find that Maximilian Kolbe was the last man alive, so they gave him a lethal injection. According to his records, Kolbe died of a “weak heart,” but his heart was one of incredible strength. As a priest, his heart was transformed to love with the sacrificial love of Christ. He embodied John 15:13 by choosing to lay down his life for selflessly for another man. Because Kolbe took Franciszek Gajowniczek’s place, he survived Auschwitz. Gajowniczek returned home to his wife and children, and in 1982, he attended St. Maximilian Kolbe’s canonization.

How Do We Love?
Hearing and talking about St. Maximilian Kolbe’s sacrifice always makes me tear up, but more importantly, it makes me reflect on my own life and how I love.

Have you ever asked for something without really knowing what it is? Sometimes I tell God I want something and I don’t realize what I’m getting myself into. I think I first learned about sacrificial love from the FOCUS missionaries. I was immediately attracted to it, and I began to pray “Father, help me to love like Jesus. Help me to grow in sacrificial love.” Of course, God gave me opportunities to practice sacrificial love. For the past year, I found myself suffering physically and mentally. I’ll spare you the details, but through the ails that I experienced, I learned how to put aside my will and comfort for the good of someone else. I learned to use moments of inconvenience and suffering to pray for my loved ones, offering up my suffering and uniting it to Jesus. As strange as it sounds, now I’m able to embrace suffering because I view it as opportunities to intercede for others and grow in sacrificial love.

If you’re desiring to grow in sacrificial love, putting aside your needs or comfort for someone else is a good way to start. Little acts of kindness, like helping a friend study, buying a coffee for the person in line behind you, or visiting an elderly neighbor are great ways to give of yourself with love. Don’t ask “what can I get out” of a person. Ask “how can I give of myself” to this person. Who knows if we’ll be called to literally lay our lives down. We might not wear the crown of martyrdom, but we can emulate St. Maximilian Kolbe’s love by constantly and consistently offering ourselves to others for their good.

Stay radiant!

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