(From the Housetops is indebted to Father Martin, the superior of the Franciscans of the Immaculate in New Bedford, Massachusetts, for his permission to publish the following conference of St. Maximilian Kolbe in our magazine. It has been transcribed exactly as it appears in the book Roman Conferences of St. Maximilian Kolbe, published by the Academy of the Immaculate.) (The Editor)
[St. Maximilian began by recalling the feast of the day, our Lady of Lourdes and the first apparition in the grotto of Massabielle.]
We believe the infallible proclamation of the Pope who had previously2 in 1854 defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but we must thank the all-holy Virgin who wished to confirm this truth, especially for those who do not believe, with Her instruction and miracles. We know, in fact, that in response to the repeated request of Bernadette She replied on March 25, 1858, exactly in this way: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Let us meditate these words. She did not say: “I am She who has been conceived without sin,” or “She who has been preserved from original sin” or with other similar formulations, but She said: “I am the Immaculate Conception,” as it were to signify not only a fact, not only a dignity or quality, but to designate Her very person: I am (cf. Ex 3, 14: Jn 8, 58; Apoc 1, 8). The Stainlessness (Immaculateness) is identified with our Lady and our Lady with Stainlessness personified. And in the choice of the day, the feast of the Annunciation, She makes us understand, as well, the why of this privilege, in view namely of the divine maternity.
Let us seek to penetrate the plan of God: The Immaculate, united to Her divine Son by ties of blood, is associated with Him in the mystery of salvation, in the struggle against evil, in the triumph of good; the new Adam, the new Eve, together in grace, together in suffering, together in glory, on Calvary as in heaven, always united, today as well as yesterday in the attacks of infidels. Against whom do the forces of evil and error rage? Against Christ, our Lady and the Pope. The atheistic, materialist, masonic press spreads errors against religion and the faith, combats the Church and the Pope, and aims at blotting from the face of the earth the very names of Christ and of our Lady. Every means is used: press, radio, cinema and entertainment to spread disbelief and to ridicule the faithful, organize blasphemous processions to denigrate the Holy Father. Where they can, they make use of authority and violence to level churches, crosses and every symbol of faith.
At Campo di Fiori, here in Rome, they chanted in honor of Giordano Bruno3 to show disrespect to the Pope, a prisoner in the Vatican, and beneath the Vatican carried banners and flags showing Lucifer vanquishing St. Michael. Are we merely to stand and watch? It is not enough to weep behind drawn blinds. We must pray and sacrifice for the conversion of the erring and of sinners, but if we are consecrated souls, if we are knights of the Immaculate, we must come out into the field and fight, organize all our forces to keep the virtuous faithful and lead the erring back into the way of faith, lead them back to the mercy of God, to the maternal goodness of the Immaculate, enlightening them concerning the eternal destiny awaiting them and for which we have been created, that ineffable peace which the Lord already gives in the present life. Every word of truth draws its efficacy from divine grace.
Precisely in order to combat such impious wickedness, the Pious Union of the Militia of Mary Immaculate, with the approval of ecclesiastical authority and of the Superiors of the Order, was established in 1917.4 Its nature is to place us in the hands of our Lady to work for the kingdom of God, certain of Mary’s victory over such great evils in the world, over hatred, the horrible carnage and smoldering ruins of the war of 1914-1918.
We, too, must make use of the press and other means of communication – let us be clear, even in the best of circumstances this will always be little, in contrast with what the atheistic and anti-religious world press disposes – and place these in the service of the Immaculate to combat error and impiety, for the glory of God, so that every man might know he has been redeemed by Jesus Christ and called to immortal glory. We cannot take rest as long as there is in the world one soul in danger, who does not yet know the Immaculate. Our human frailty, limited resources or any other worldly difficulty must not restrain us; let us confide in the Immaculate, let us place ourselves truly in Her hands and She will continue to win the battles of God, as at Lepanto, as at Vienna. We must place our Lady in every soul so that from every soul sin be expelled and Jesus introduced. Who finds the Immaculate, finds Jesus.
The Immaculate is the conqueress of the devil, is the Mother of God, always united to God, the full of grace, the masterpiece of grace with every holiness and perfection attainable by a human creature. The Immaculate is She who in Her unbounded and respectful love wills the glory of God, fights the battles of God for overcoming evil, for the triumph of good, crushes the head of hell’s monster and destroys all heresies in the whole world. Let us pray to the Immaculate, let us trust in the Immaculate, the conqueress, faithfully awaiting the day in which a knight of the Immaculate will raise high above the Kremlin in Moscow the white standard of the Immaculate.5
I find myself before so many Professors, so many distinguished representatives of theological thought and ecclesiastical learning. When will there arise a Library of the Immaculate to chant and to perpetuate the glories of the Immaculate? How many are willing to undertake this laborious and glorious task? To collect, to organize and to pass on all which speaks of the Immaculate along the course of the centuries: Sacred Scripture, the Supreme Pontiffs, the Holy Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, the Theologians and Saints. To create a doctrinal and historical corpus where all can attain knowledge of the mystery of the Immaculate, can grow in devotion, admiration and love of the Immaculate – not only the clergy and religious, but also the simple faithful throughout the world: what a worthy monument to God who willed to give us the Immaculate; what a lighthouse for non-believers; what a bond of love to unite us evermore to the Immaculate! May all nourish themselves on this truth so as to enter into the thought of God who willed the Incarnation to give us much more than what we had lost in Adam, and who in the Incarnation willed the Immaculate to remind us of the innocent man created by God and of the vision of an innocent world, according to the plan of God.
To God all glory, to God our respectful love and our praise, who willed thus to exalt and glorify the Immaculate. Mother of this dismembered and sinful humanity, our Hope, always.6
1 February 11, 1937, Hall of the Immaculate, Basilica of the Twelve Apostles, Rome, at the invitation of the Most Rev. Bede M. Hess, Minister General of the Friars Minor Conventual, during the reunion of the Militia of the Immaculate in Rome to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding of that Militia in 1917. In the large audience were cardinals, bishops, members of the Roman nobility, university professors and representatives of the major Franciscan families as well as of other religious orders. Fr. Vittorio Di Lillo acted as reporter: Incontri con Padre Massimiliano, cit., 43-48.
2 Previously: that is to the apparitions in Lourdes in 1858.
3 Giordano Bruno 1548-1600: an apostate Dominican priest, who on becoming known as a heretic fled Italy to live in France, England, and then Germany. Returning to Venice in 1592 he was arrested by the Inquisition. His case was eventually called to Rome, where when asked to abjure not his philosophical system, but the heresies it contained, he refused. He was then turned over to the secular arm and executed by burning in the square known as Campo di Fiori. Subsequently, this rather unsavory character, suspected by some as having been employed (under a false name posing as a Catholic priest in good standing) by the English government to trap Catholic priests, later became in the 18th century a hero of German idealists, and in the 19th century one of the major “hero martyrs” of anti-clericals and freemasons during the Italian risorgimento, concluding in the downfall of the Papal States and the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy on an anti-papal basis. Cf. A Carlini, Bruno, Giordano, in Enciclopedia Cattolica III (Vatican City 1949) cc. 150-154. The 1917 masonic-directed demonstrations against the Pope, to which the Saint makes reference, were in considerable part inspired by the one-time English Jew, Ernest Nathan (London 1845-Rome 1921), who after the fall of the Papal States in 1870 had taken Italian citizenship (1888) and eventually (in the years just before the outbreak of World War I) had been Mayor of Rome (1907-1913). To his death he remained a very influential figure in Italian intellectual circles. Cf Nathan, Ernesto, in Dizionario Enciclopedico ftaliano VIII (Roma 1970) 244.
4 The foundation was on Oct. 17, 1917 (more precisely the evening of Oct. 16, vigil of the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque), and four days after the last Fatima apparition and miracle of the sun. It does not seem St. Maximilian ever had any knowledge of Fatima (at least there is no record of any such) which, if true, shows the complementarity of the two events more to be a work of Heaven.
5 According to the reporter, Fr. Di Lillo, a long and thunderous applause interrupted the address at this point, expressing the “Amen” of all present. When one recalls how at this moment the martyrdom of Catholic Spain had only begun, one can appreciate all the more the profound Marian faith of St. Maximilian. And in the light of the message of Fatima: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph,” apparently unknown to St. Maximilian, the true significance of his prophecy can be seen. In addition to the already mentioned coincidence of the founding with the last Fatima apparition is the October revolution in Russia, where the Cathedral of the Assumption (a title celebrating inter alia the victory of the Woman over the serpent) in the Kremlin of Moscow was transformed into a headquarters for an anti-militia of the Serpent. On the prophecy itself Fr. Di Lillo left this interesting comment: “According to the testimony of Fr. Pignalberi, Fr. Maximilian (during his visit to Piglio, Feb. 5-6, 1937) declared that ‘in the very center of Moscow the statue of the Immaculate would be raised aloft, but before this took place there would have occurred a bloody trial…’ I (Fr. Quirico) understood this phrase to mean a trial to occur in the City of the Immaculate and one he himself would have to endure. He (St. Maximilian) repeated to me this phrase about the bloody trial (prova di sangue) several days later in Rome after the conclusion of the academy of the Immaculate in the friary of the Holy Apostles, Feb. 11. I remember distinctly that on this occasion he noted that this bloody trial was necessary. I was quite perturbed over so decisive a prediction, but he insisted that thus all would turn out well…’ This prediction concerning the erection of a statue of the Immaculate in Red Square or aloft the Kremlin was also made to other friars. All of them remark that he also referred to ‘a bloody trial necessary for the realization of the great event.’ This ‘bloody trial’ is commonly referred to the martyrdom of St. Maximilian and to the trials and tribulations of Niepokalanow during the War and the period of cruel Nazi occupation. Near 40 years have passed (c. 1984) and the Immaculate is not yet, unfortunately, enthroned in the city of Moscow [nor 67 years later, 2004] Could the Saint have meant some ‘bloody trial’ still to come? Time will tell.” Cf Di Lillo, Incontri con Padre Massimiliano, cit., pp. 64-65.
6 The major address next delivered on this occasion, was an erudite history of the Franciscan Order and the Immaculate Conception by Fr. Nicola Dal Gal, OFM. Cony. (published in Commentarium Ordinis, O.F.M.Conv., 1937, pp. 97-104). That of Fr. Maximilian had been a last-minute addition to the program at the insistence of Fr. Bede Hess, but which in fact “made” the occasion and continues to be remembered long after the learned dissertation of Fr. Dal Gal (a bit on the “triumphalistic side” according to Fr. Di Lillo) had been forgotten even by the scholars. Fr. Di Lillo, Incontri con Padre Massimiliano, cit., pp. 67 if., places this major public conference of the Saint in direct relation with a number of significant events which followed upon it shortly after the onset of World War II (Sept. 1, 1939): 1) insistence by the Minister General, Fr. Bede Hess, that the entire Conventual Franciscan family renew each year its solemn consecration to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Conception (Feb. 10, 1941); 2) seven months after the martyrdom of St. Maximilian on March 12, 1942, solemn blessing of the Militia of the Immaculate on its silver jubilee of foundation by Pius XII; 3) the circular letter of Fr. Bede Hess (May 1, 1942) to the entire Order concerning the Militia of the Immaculate and the Marian character of Franciscan life; and 4) the consecration of the Church and the entire human family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pope Pius XII, Oct. 31,1942, and the order of Fr. Bede Hess, Nov. 29, 1942, that the entire Order be consecrated to Mary under that title on Dec. 8, 1942, or no later than Feb. 11, 1943, a consecration to be undertaken not only ritually, but personally and spiritually. Fr. Di Lillo concludes by noting two events “coinciding” with the martyrdom of St. Maximilian: a) after the consecration of the Church and world to the Immaculate Heart, Nazi power and fortune in war began to recede; and b) the central importance of total consecration to the Immaculate began to be recognized throughout the world. Are these the first installment in the fulfillment of his prophecy? Benevolus lector iudicet!