A wonderful thing happened while I was offline with a dead hard drive a week ago: I rediscovered the joy of reading books. Actually sitting down in a comfortable chair and digging into paper and softcover and getting prompted to read another person’s life. Notice I said “prompted to read” and “another person’s life”, for I felt that I was lead by the Holy Spirit during that “unfortunate week” to explore more fully a favorite saint of mine: St. Maximilian Kolbe.
I’ve read 2 biographies when my Mac was dead, and finished a third after its resurrection after Easter. I just started a fourth.
Who is St. Maximiliam Kolbe? He was a man who used the latest technology available to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the masses, in order to win the world to Jesus through a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
From a blog post of mine from 2007:
“St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan priest who was executed at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in 1941. He offered himself up in place of another man, who survived the death camp and lived to see Fr. Kolbe’s canonization…
…St. Kolbe also founded the “Militia of the Immaculata” a Catholic organization dedicated to evangelizing the world. It is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. All of its members are consecrated (sworn ‘by blood’ to belong to) the Virgin. I am a member…
St. Kolbe, due to the nature of his execution, is one of the patron saints of addicts. Although he was not an alcoholic or an addict, he died by lethal injection in a cell.”
To me it is a stretch to regard him as a patron of addicts as, like I stated, he was neither an alcoholic nor an addict. I think it may be due to the unavailability of saints who were decidedly alcoholics and addicts that some devotees “reach” a little and have adopted him. Not that St. Maximilian would mind, if it were God’s will that he be such a patron and if it helped spread the Good News to those who needed it, then he’d willingly submit.
I think it may be more accurate to regard him as a patron of Addiction Recovery, due to the following line from one of the biographies I read:
“St. Maximilian would propose a spirituality of an interior “holocaust” in order to burn away sin and imperfections to let love triumph.” (From Kolbe: Saint of the Immaculata; Kalvelage, Francis M, F.I., editor. Franciscans of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA; 2001. site: MaryMediatrix )
Isn’t that what we are doing when we enter our recovery? We “burn away sin and imperfections” to allow our truer selves through. We “let love triumph” for as much as we were self-centered during our addictions, we are more apt to turn towards others and act with compassion after our recovery begins.
Love was what St. Maximilian was about, serving others selflessly and finally paying the ultimate price: sacrificing himself for another man.
While we may not be called to be martyrs in the usual sense, those of us in recovery may be more ready to sacrifice ourselves for others in some manner. We have already “died”, inasmuch as our old addictive self perished in the interior “holocaust” of conversion and recovery.
I have a medal of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and on it he is identified as the “Saint of Addiction Recovery.” There is a prayer on it which reads:
“Give me the strength to overcome my habits, clear vision to righteousness, and the will to overcoma all obstacles.”
There is an excellent biographical summary here:
(Via SQPN Saints Index.)
I have written about him before:"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"