Excerpts from and Reflections on the Writings of St Maximilian Kolbe… by Annette Leib, President, M.I. Canada
Holiness. Volume II #1001.
In this letter, Maximilian has given us such a great treasure of spiritual wisdom that can easily be overlooked if read very quickly or with little personal reflection. So in an effort to mine the rich spiritual treasure this article contains, it is important to pause and highlight the obstacle to holiness and the path to spiritual growth that Fr. Kolbe wishes to convey through his writings.
The following passage in the aforementioned article found in Volume II, #1001 is worthy of pause and reflection:
“Because of the fall of our first parents, human reason was clouded and has since been unable to find a clear way to spiritual self-improvement. At the same time, man’s weakened will power did not have sufficient strength to embrace heroism; hence our obscure or false concepts of holiness.” Fr. M.K. (Rycerz Niepokalanej, March 1922)
Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, in his study program, “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told” touches on key factors which sheds light on this quote. Fr. Michael traces the history of God’s mercy from the fall of our first parents to the present generation. The following is a paraphrase of some of his words that touch on the concept of our distorted image of God and the need to “TRUST” in His goodness and mercy.
“This school of trust began with Adam and Eve in the garden. The serpent tempts them and they disobey God. When they hear His presence in the garden, they hide from Him and want to run away. Their sin leads to a lack of trust that dies in their hearts. This is the first sin and all subsequent sin becomes a fear of God. This fear distorts our image of God. There is a fear of being punished for wrongdoing or we may fear God wants to impose His will on us and spoil our fun. God’s heart burns with a love that is unconditional. He shows infinite mercy to us, not because He has to, but He wants to. We lack childlike trust to run into His loving arms. This lack of trust is the root of all sin.” Our false concept of holiness is rooted in the distorted image of God that arises out of our wounded and sinful nature.
Fr. Michael continues, “The wound of the distorted image of God is passed down to us from generation to generation. Salvation history is God’s greatest effort to get us skittish, fearful creatures to trust in Him. He tries to teach us and to heal our wounds of the false image of Him so we can trust Him. However, God has a problem. He can’t force us to trust Him because we need the freedom to do so and to love Him. So He starts with the process of Mercy as revealed in history.”
Maximilian’s answer to this problem “to find a clear way to spiritual self- improvement” is to turn to the one who is the paragon of the virtue of “Trust,” our spiritual mother, Mary. No matter what joys, sorrows, sufferings or trials she endured in her earthly life, she exemplified such heroic love for God by her complete surrender and trust in His love and Holy will. As our spiritual mother, she wants to lead us to her son, Jesus, and to bring us to the summit of holiness with and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In His daily meditation notes of 1919 Maximilian stresses the significant role of Mary in our spiritual journey:
Thurs., Oct.2th: “Trust in her; “Graces are obtained by those who have trust.”
Mon., Oct. 20th: “Surrender yourself totally to God through the Immaculata.”
“Our Lady fulfills and exemplifies all of the virtues of the saints thus being the model of virtue for us and for sainthood.” (Quote from Fr.Patrick Greenough, ofm, Conv. Spiritual director for MI Canada)
Maximilian realizes that “men’s weakened willpower did not have the strength to embrace heroism”, but there is hope that Mary can help us find a clear path to holiness if we entrust ourselves completely to her as Maximilian did in his daily life. He found a clear path to holiness through her and so can we. What better way to end with the maxim in Maximilian’s words:
Sat., Jan.4th 1919. “JESUS” is our love. “MARY” is our hope.” Fr. M.K.