"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, OFM Conv: "I Live Only For Souls—That Is My Mission"

The text below is part of a report written by St. Maximilian to his fellow religious in Nagasaki, on October 16, 1935, on the founding anniversary of the Militiæ Immaculatæ (MI), also called Knights of the Immaculata, that he founded. [History and perspectives of the Militia of the Immaculata by RAFFAELE DI MURO, OFM Conv.]
"I remember talking with my brother clerics about the wretched state of our Order and about its future. And in those moments, the following idea was being impressed on my mind: either rebuild it or break it all up... I did not quite know what to do.... 
When in Rome the Freemasons started coming out in the open daringly, flaunting their banners under the windows of the Vatican, depicting, on the black banners of the followers of Giordano Bruno, St. Michael the Archangel crushed under the foot of Lucifer, and openly lashing out against the Holy Father in propaganda pamphlets, the thought came of setting up an association committed to fighting Freemasonry and other servants of Lucifer... I sought counsel from my spiritual director at the time, Fr. Alessandro Basile, a Jesuit... with the consent of the Fr. Rector, on October 17, 1917, the first meeting of the first seven members took place... at night, in secret, in a locked, inner cell that was constructed by means of a temporary wall. In front of us there was a little statue of the lmmaculata between two lighted candles. Br. Girolamo Biasi acted as secretary. The purpose of this first meeting was the discussion of the "program of the MI" (the enrollment form), especially since Fr. Alessandro Basile, who was also confessor to the Pope [Benedict XV], had promised he would ask the Holy Father for a blessing of the MI.... 
For more than a year after that first meeting, the MI made no progress. In fact, all kinds of setbacks piled up, to the point that members were uncomfortable even mentioning it among themselves. One of them even tried to convince the others that the MI was something useless... membership started to increase, and has increased more and more ever since. In that early period of life of the Militia, our activity—besides private prayer—consisted in handing out medals of the Immaculata, called "Miraculous Medals." On one occasion, the same Most Rev. Fr. General gave us money to purchase some." (KW 1278)
According to Raffaele Di Muro, OFM Conv, the foundation of the MI was borne from two situations that worried the saint greatly, namely the persecution of the Church and the condition of fragility and difficulty that the Order of Friars Minor Conventual lived while he was in Rome from 1912 to 1919. His heart became so inflamed by the Immaculata that he saw this same inspiration as the watershed or "balsam" for both the Church and his religious family. After a few years, the membership spread like wildfire. St. Maximilian writes,
"At the lnternational College in Rome, inside a poor little cell, locked, but with the Superior's permission, seven young clerics, wearing the habit and girded with the Franciscan cord, armed with spiritual sabers, that is, Franciscan rosaries, examined the points of the first statute of the Militia of the Immaculata. Above them, between two lighted candles, a little statue of the Immaculata had been placed. 
By summoning these young and inexperienced friars, the Immaculata already knew that within a year she would be holding two of them close to her immaculate and motherly heart in heaven; that shortly after, a third one would follow them: and that the others would be scattered around the world... Yet they would advance always fostering in their hearts a love without limits toward their neighbors, the love of the Immaculata herself, even if their neighbors were not only foreigners, of a different race or different color, but even open enemies of religion, of the Immaculata, of God. And they would march on with hatred, implacable hatred, the same hatred the Immaculata herself harbors against evil and against sin, even if minor. Each conversion and every step on the way to sanctification are the work of grace, and the dispenser of all graces that flow from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is none other than His Mother, the Immaculata. Thus, the closer a soul gets to her, the more abundantly it can draw on these graces. As a result, our key mission is to bring souls closer to her, to lead her to the souls."
14 August 1941Nazi SS Captain Karl Fritsch was about to leave Auschwitz concentration camp after choosing ten prisoners to die in the starvation bunker to serve as a lesson for an escaped prisoner. Prisoner 16670 stepped out of formation. Facing the 47 year old prisoner, Fritsch demanded, “What do you want, you Polish dog?” The prisoner, Father Maximilian Kolbe, removed his cap and said, “I want to die in the place of one of these men.” “Why?” came the blunt inquiry. Father Maximilian replied, “I am an old man, sir, and good for nothing.” Nazis desired to exterminate first the weak and infirm so Fritsch asked him in whose place he wanted to die. Pointing to Sgt. Francis Gajowniczek, one of the condemned, Father Maximilian said, “For him, the one who has a wife and children.” The camp secretary crossed out 5659 and wrote down 16670.

15 August 1941–On the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Immaculata, the ashes of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe's cremated remains were scattered to the winds above Auschwitz. The Nazis thought they had finally silenced him. On the contrary, the saint's pen and voice grew even stronger in death than they had ever been in life. His zeal and love for the Immaculata remain to this day an aegis for the defenders of the faith and for freedom-fighters across the free world. Fr. JM Manzano, SJ