St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan who was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz during World War II. He had been hiding Jews in the friary. Three months after his arrest by the Gestapo on July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner’s escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe, who was 47 years old, volunteered himself in place of a young father. The offer was accepted and he died weeks later, the last of the ten. When he was very young, he had a vision of the Virgin Mary who foretold that he would die a martyr’s death. Throughout his life he had a great devotion to Our Lady.
Today is his feast day. In the missal, this quote is attributed to him: The cross is a school of love! The illness of cancer is a cross, no doubt about it. In Ignatian language, it is full of consolation and desolation so keeping watch over the inner movements of one’s heart is key with the goal always to remain in the loving hands of God. I had a hard day yesterday. I was feeling as if someone had beat me up, kicked me in my kidneys and tried to wrestle my head off my neck. Yeah, I know it does not sound pleasant. I could not help but think that this is only the mild version of chemotherapy. I cannot imagine what the aggressive form does. I found myself bonding with others who undergo much worse and lifting them up in prayer. This disease is a school of love. I was also blessed by loving friends who allowed me to cry as they served me tea and sang me songs.
St. Maximilian understood the cross as a lesson in love. When ten of his peers were called to the head of the “classroom” he intervened. I wondered if in those last weeks, as one by one, the other men passed on, if he prayed each one through it prior to his own letting go. I suspect it was no accident that he died last.
The cost of the cross is expensive and the tuition fees for this school of love are exorbitant. Christ laid down his life for us and calls us to do the same. Most of us will never be able to step in and offer our lives for another literally but we can do it daily in small acts of dying. We can practice love and dying to ourselves in a variety of ways. Some of us excel so well that we get an A+ for our efforts. What about you? What lesson does St. Maximilian have for you today?
What lessons do you need to learn in the school of love?
The work of the Kingdom is challenging some days. Can you help share the load when someone is being crucified for their ministry?
Through the intercessory of
St. Maximilian Kolbe, dear Lord,
school us in the way of Love,
perfect, abiding, and selfless.