St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Immaculate Conception
In the wake of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, it is good to reflect upon Mary not only as a passive recipient of a singular grace from God that preserved her from all stain of sin from the moment of her conception, but also to consider the effects of this singular grace as an active, militant force in Mary something revealed in the Protoevangelium, the first announcement of the Good News "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she will crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel" (Gen. 3:15).1 Certainly St. Maximilian Kolbe saw this revelation of Mary's Immaculate Conception in this light; in fact, it was what inspired him to found an association which reflects this notion in its very name: the Militia Immaculatae.
In order to better understand the specific Marian charism of the MI, we will begin with a look at the life of St. Maximilian, his reasons for founding the MI, and his Marian spirituality. We will then reflect on the meaning of Gen. 3:15 in reference to Mary and Satan in God's salvific plan.
St. Maximilian Kolbe: His early life
Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland on January 8, 1894 and was baptized on his birth date with the name Raymond. Maximilian (the name he would take in religious life) was a highly intelligent boy, and boisterous, but rather obstinate and self-willed. At about the age of nine, shortly after having made his First Holy Communion, an incident took place that would forever change him. One day in church while he was praying before a statue of Our Lady, Mary appeared to him holding two crowns: a white crown for purity, and a red crown for martyrdom. She asked him if he wanted them and Maximilian responded, "Yes" he wanted both crowns. After this apparition his mother, Maria, noticed a sudden and profound change in her son: he was meditative, solemn, and often found praying before a statue of Our Lady in their home.2
As a teenager Maximilian was a highly gifted student and excelled in science and math. At sixteen he seriously considered entering the military but instead, with encouragement by his mother, he chose to enter religious life, the Conventual Franciscan Friars (OFM Conv.). His superiors recognized his intellectual gifts and in 1912 sent him to Rome for studies, where he lived until 1919. He earned doctorates in both philosophy and theology.
The founding of the Militia
In 1917, while still in the seminary and a year before his priesthood ordination, Maximilian founded the MI. The original charter for the MI was written on one page, and reads as follows:
"She will crush your head" (Gen. 3:15).
"You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world" [from the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Liturgy of the Hours in use until 1975].
I. The Purpose:
Pursue the conversion of every person living in sin, heresy, schism and especially Freemasonry, and growth in holiness of all persons, under the sponsorship and through the mediation of the B.V.M. Immaculate.
1. [Make a] total oblation of oneself to the B.V.M. Immaculate as an instrument in her immaculate hands
2. Carry or wear the Miraculous Medal
1. Offer the following earnest prayer to the Immaculata once a day if possible: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially for all the Freemasons."
2. [Use] all the legitimate means that one's particular state in life, conditions and varying opportunities make possible, [the choice of] which is left to the zeal and prudence of each member, but especially, [propagate] the Miraculous Medal.
V. Allow me (us) to praise you, most Holy Virgin.
R. Give me (us) the strength against your enemies.3
The MI, as its name indicates, is a "militia;" an army or fighting force of Marian "knights." Kolbe had read St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary, and like de Montfort he urged members of his militia to totally consecrate their lives to Mary by means of the following prayer which he penned:
Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you.
"I, N____, a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have wholly to yourself as your possession and property.
Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death, and eternity, whatever most pleases you. If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve . . .
Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For whatever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus."4
The Polish friar believed firmly in utilizing all modern methods of communication to spread the message of the Gospel, under the auspices of the Immaculata, and said these means should include "the printed word, radio broadcasts, even television [then a new medium], and the cinema."5 After leaving Rome he returned to Poland and launched a monthly periodical, The Knight of the Immaculata. In 1927 Kolbe founded Niepokalanov, the "City of the Immaculata," which served as a center for his publishing efforts. By 1937 the monthly Knight had a circulation of 780,000, and in 1939 Niepokalanov was the largest monastery in the world, with 619 religious and 120 seminarians.
Kolbe's Marian spirituality
In addition to the apparition of Our Lady in his youth, a number of factors contributed to St. Maximilian's Marian spirituality. Fr. Luigi Faccenda says these include the great Franciscan tradition of honoring Our Lady under her title, the Immaculate Conception; and the apparitions of Our Lady in the previous century: in 1830 to St. Catherine Laboure (the Miraculous Medal), and in 1858 to St. Bernadette at Lourdes.6
In 1830, twenty-four years before Pope (now Blessed) Pius IX defined that Mary by a singular grace was conceived without the stain of Original Sin, Our Lady appeared to a French nun, Catherine Laboure, at the Chapel on the Rue de Bac in Paris. St. Catherine saw Our Lady as the Immaculate Conception, standing atop a globe with her foot over the head of the serpent, Satan, in fulfillment of Gen. 3:15. In the same apparition Mary appeared as our Mother in the Order of Grace:7 St. Catherine saw Mary with rays emanating from her outstretched hands, representing the grace of Christ which she mediates for us as our Mother and Queen in Heaven.
Mary instructed St. Catherine to have a medal fashioned as she (Mary) appeared, with the words, "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee," around the outer edge of the medal. On the back of the medal appears a cross with a large "M" beneath it, symbolizing Mary's unique cooperation in the redeeming work of Christ; for it was while she stood at the foot of the Cross that Jesus announced to her that she is now our Mother as well as his: "Woman, behold, your son . . . ;" and to John, the disciple: "Behold your mother" (John 19:26-27).
Beneath the "M" surmounted by the Cross appears on the left the Sacred Heart of Jesus, surrounded by thorns; and on the right the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced by a sword. Here we see revealed the mystical union of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary; a union which began at the Incarnation when the Heart of the Redeemer began to beat beneath the Heart of Mary, and which was consummated on Calvary when, fulfilling Simeon's prophecy (Luke 2:35), Mary's Heart was pierced with a sword of sorrow, and the "living waters" of Christ's grace (John 7:38) flowed from the pierced Heart of the Lamb into Mary's Immaculate Heart, in order to be dispensed by the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
One of the reasons why Kolbe envisioned the Miraculous Medal to play such a prominent part in the apostolic mission of the MI is due to its influence in converting Alphonse Ratisbonne. Ratisbonne, an agnostic Jew, was wearing a Miraculous Medal when Our Lady appeared to him at the church of Sant' Andrea delle Fratte in Rome in 1842. he was instantly converted, having walked out a Catholic, saying that he now "understood all." Learning of Ratisbonne's conversion through this medal was one of the events that inspired Kolbe to found the MI. As Fr. Alberto Arzilli, OFM Conv., a fellow friar with Kolbe, related the story on April 26, 1942:
"Fr. Maximilian . . . was convinced of what he had to do [regarding the founding of the MI] on the [75th] anniversary day of the apparition of Our Lady to Alphonse Ratisbonne, January 20, 1917. The inspiration came to him during the morning meditation conducted by the . . . Father Rector Ignudi. In the meditation Father Ignudi told the story of Ratisbonne's miraculous conversion and commented on it.
"With a face beaming and bubbling with joy at the power of Our Lady shown in the conversion of Ratisbonne, Friar Max spoke to me of his inspiration. Smiling, he told me we had to crush the Devil and all heresies, and especially the error of Masonry.8
Later that same year, on October 16, 1917, the MI was established when Kolbe and seven others met for the first time with the permission of the Father Rector. The following year, in 1918, after his priesthood ordination, Fr. Kolbe offered his first Mass at Sant' Andrea delle Fratte, in the chapel where Ratisbonne's vision occurred. Today the busts of both Kolbe and Ratisbonne stand in the church.
The apparition of Mary at Lourdes
In 1858, four years after Bl. Pius IX defined the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to little fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous a total of eighteen times at Lourdes, France. For St. Maximilian, the words Our Lady spoke to St. Bernadette, "Que soy era immaculada councepciou" ("I am the Immaculate Conception"), contain an unfathomable mystery that haunted him, as it were, for his entire adult life. Writing in 1933, he said:
Who and what is the Immaculata? Who can understand her perfectly? . . . We all understand what "mother" means; but "mother of God" is something that our reason and our limited intellect cannot really grasp. So too, only God really understands what "immaculate" means. "Conceived without sin" we can fathom up to a point; but "Immaculate Conception" is an expression that abounds in the most consoling of mysteries.9
In his writings on the "Immaculata" (the name he used for Mary under the title, Immaculate Conception), he would often ask, "Who are you?" For Our Lady did not say "I was immaculately conceived," but rather identified herself, her very being ("I am") with the "Immaculate Conception." Kolbe says these words of Mary "point up not only the fact that she was conceived without sin, but also the manner in which this privilege belongs to her. It is not something accidental; it is something that belongs to her very nature. For she is Immaculate Conception in person."10
The above words are taken from the Polish Martyr's last writing, a few hours before his final arrest by the Nazis on February 17, 1941, when he would be taken to Auschwitz and eventually be killed by lethal injection after offering his life in place of a fellow prisoner. In this same "Final Sketch" Kolbe arrived at a profound insight, an "answer" it seems (at least in part) to his persistent question, "Who are you, Immaculata?": he calls Mary the created Immaculate Conception, created sinless and from conception uniquely filled with an abundance of grace, in order to be made superabundantly fruitful when she would become the Mother of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. As Kolbe says: "He [the Holy Spirit] makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity."11 Additionally, he calls the Holy Spirit the Uncreated, Eternal Immaculate Conception, who is "conceived" from the love that flows eternally between the Father and the Son; a love so perfect that it is personified. Kolbe explains:
Everything that exists, outside of God himself, since it is from God and depends upon him in every way, bears within itself some semblance to its Creator . . . because every created thing is an effect of the Primal Cause.
It is true that the words we use to speak of created realities express the divine perfections only in a halting, limited and analogical manner. They are only a more or less distant echo as are created realities that they signify of the properties of God himself.
Would not "conception" be an exception to this rule? No, there is never any exception . . .
And who is the Holy Spirit? The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a divine "conception." The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the "uncreated, eternal conception," the prototype of all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe.12
In other writings the Polish friar attempts to describe Mary's deep, intimate union with the Third Person of the Trinity from her conception, by calling Mary the "quasi-incarnation" of the Holy Spirit.13 He is careful to stress that this union "is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ";14 for he repeated often that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in Mary in the same way in which the Eternal Word is present in the sacred humanity of Jesus.15 The notion of the Holy Spirit becoming "in some manner" (quasi) incarnate in Mary may at first seem to be an extreme idea. However, it is somewhat analogous to the statement by St. Louis de Montfort, that "God the Son wishes to form himself, and in a manner of speaking, become incarnate every day in his members through his dear Mother."16 Along the same lines, St. Paul says: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).
With the term "quasi-incarnation" Kolbe means that Mary is so much like (quasi) the Holy Spirit, in that she reflects the Third Person of the Trinity especially in two qualities or attributes: receptivity and fruitfulness. The Holy Spirit is the Fruit of the Father and the Son. He was "eternally conceived," if you will, as the Fruit of the all-pure love which has forever flowed between the Father and the Son. He receives the mutual love of the Father and the Son and eternally fructifies it within the inner life of the Trinity.17 Mary's sinlessness from conception is the fruit of God's love. At Mary's conception the Holy Spirit conformed her to himself. The Blessed Virgin, by reason of the singular grace of her Immaculate Conception, is totally receptive to the love of God. At the Annunciation she receives God's love and in cooperation with the Holy Spirit makes that love fruitful infinitely so in conceiving the Incarnate Word.18
Mary's receptivity and fruitfulness did not end with the Conception and Birth of Christ. Now in Heaven, Mary remains the living, human conduit for the graces that the Holy Spirit distributes to us. As Kolbe says:
[T]he Holy Spirit manifests his share in the word of Redemption through the Immaculate Virgin who, although she is a person entirely distinct from him, is so intimately associated with him that our minds cannot understand it. So, while their union is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary's action is the very action of the Holy Spirit.19
St. Maximilian sees Mary's ineffable union with the Holy Spirit from the very first instant of her conception as giving her a privileged place in God's saving plan. In keeping with what God has revealed in Scripture and Tradition regarding Mary's intercessory role in the order of grace, he says:
When we reflect on these two truths: that all graces come from the Father by the Son and the Holy Spirit; and that our Holy Mother Mary is, so to speak, one with the Holy Spirit, we are driven to the conclusion that this Most Holy Mother is indeed the intermediary by whom all graces come to us.20
All of God's grace comes to us through Mary's intercession. This is the "descending" order of grace. For Kolbe, there is a corresponding "ascending" order, for Mary is our means for going to God: "Have no doubt that her will is entirely united to God's will. It is a matter, then, of uniting our will to hers, and thus we will be united to God through her."21 The Polish Saint sees uniting oneself to Mary as the means of conquering the world for Christ:
"The Knights of the Immaculata [members of the MI movement] seek to become ever more truly the property of the Immaculata; to belong to her in an ever more perfect way and under every aspect without any exception. They wish to develop their understanding of what it means to belong to her so that they may enlighten, reinvigorate, and set on fire the souls living in their own environment, and make them similar to themselves. They desire to conquer these souls for the Immaculata, so that in their turn they may belong without reserve and may in this manner win an ever greater number of souls to her may win the entire world, in fact, and do so in the shortest possible time."22
Perhaps what most attracted St. Maximilian to Mary is her beauty: the beauty of the deep and unfathomable mystery of her Immaculate Conception, and the beauty of her spotless purity throughout the entirety of her earthly life, which now radiates forth in heaven. St. Bernadette gives witness to this when, describing the apparitions at Lourdes, she says of Our Lady: "She is so beautiful, that one would be willing to die to see her again."
The evil of Freemasonry
Another reason that motivated Kolbe to found the MI, as reflected in his original charter quoted earlier, and alluded to in the testimony of Fr. Arzilli, quoted above, is the "error of Masonry." By 1917 Italian Masonry was boldly rearing its ugly head in opposition to the Church. Writing in 1935 about the founding of the MI back in 1917, St. Maximilian said:
[T]he Freemasons in Rome began to demonstrate openly and belligerently against the Church. They placed the black standard of the "Giordano Brunisti" under the window of the Vatican. [Giordano Bruno was a Dominican turned Calvinist turned pantheist who was burned as a heretic on Feb. 17, 1600. This Masonic demonstration most likely occurred on Feb. 17 to commemorate his death]. On this standard the archangel St. Michael was depicted lying under the feet of the triumphant Lucifer. At the same time, countless pamphlets were distributed to the people in which the Holy Father was attacked shamefully. "Right then I conceived the idea of organizing an active society to counteract Freemasonry and other slaves of Lucifer . . .23
In 1939, writing in the Latin magazine for priests which he began publishing a year earlier, Miles Immaculatae, Kolbe said this about the Masonic demonstrations against the Church and Masonry's evil designs:
[During the marches around the Vatican on Brunisti's anniversary], some enraged hands dared to write such slogans as, 'Satan will rule on Vatican Hill, and the Pope will serve as his lackey,' and other such insults. Now these unreasoning acts of hatred toward the Church of Christ and his temporal Vicar were not the inept rantings of a few individual psychopaths, but the manner, way and plan of action deduced from the Masonic rule: Destroy all teaching about God, especially the Catholic teaching.
Centers of this secret society have been established in every region. Nevertheless in various ways they more or less openly promote the same thing. In their plan they use many and various kinds of societies, which under their leadership promote neglect of Divine things and the breakdown of morality. This is because the Freemasons follow this principle above all: "Catholicism can be overcome not by logical arguments but by corrupted morals." And so they overwhelm the souls of men with the kind of literature and arts that will most easily destroy a sense of chaste morals, and foster sordid lifestyles in all phases of human life . . . To bring help to so many unhappy persons, to stabilize innocent hearts so that all can more easily go to the Immaculate Virgin through whom so many graces come down to us, the Militia Immaculatae was established in Rome in 1917.24
We can imagine what this Polish Knight of Our Lady would say today regarding the widespread promotion of immorality in television, movies, music and the arts; and we can ponder to what extent Freemasonry which is truly an arm of Satan has contributed and continues to contribute to the current state of affairs.
Gen. 3:15: The humble Woman who crushes Satan's proud head
St. Maximilian, the gentle Friar who lived the white crown of purity and received the red crown of martyrdom, clearly saw Gen. 3:15 as having both salvific and eschatological dimensions. This was one of his main reasons for founding the MI as a young seminarian in Rome in 1917. In God's almighty providence, it is no mere coincidence that Kolbe founded the MI in the same year that Our Lady appeared to the three little children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, at Fatima, Portugal and revealed to them God's plan for world peace. "She will crush your head" should be read alongside Mary's own words at Fatima: "In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph"; for the ultimate triumph of Mary's Immaculate Heart involves the victory of the Immaculata the All-Pure and Spotless Virgin whom the Evil One could never touch over Satan and his minions.
In our Catholic Tradition, beginning with SS. Justin Martyr (+ 165), Irenaeus (+ 200), Epiphanius (+ 403) and Jerome (+ 420), Mary has been contrasted with Eve by phrases such as: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience"; and "Death through Eve, life through Mary,"25 Truly, Mary is the "New Eve."26 However, in light of the revelation in Gen. 3:15, can we not also say that in addition to viewing Eve in opposition to Mary, as her anti-type, that in God's salvific plan the Prince of Darkness should also be seen in opposition to Mary, even as another anti-type of Our Lady?27 Consider: Satan and Mary are both creatures. Both were endowed at their creation with abundant gifts: Lucifer was the most beautiful and intelligent of all the angels before his fall; Mary from the first moment of her Conception was Immaculate and Full of Grace. Satan was "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44); Mary is the "Mother of All the Living."28 Satan, the Tempter, deprived the human race of grace; Mary is the Mother in the Order of Grace. Satan is the "Father of Lies" (John 8:44); Mary is the "Destroyer of All Heresies."29 In the end, Satan's proud rebellion, "Non serviam" ("I will not serve"),30 will be overcome by Mary's humble obedience: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).31
The Church teaches that all the angels were created naturally good, and that prior to being admitted into the presence of God they were given a test of obedience.32 They failed that test by "radically and irrevocably" rejecting God and his reign,33 and as a result they are separated from God eternally.34 A tradition among Saints and theologians holds that in this test of obedience, the Incarnation was revealed to the angels, and that Satan along with a number of other angels rebelled, refusing to submit to the notion of having to worship him who would be both God and man, and as a result "fell like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18). Because his will is forever fixed in his rebellion,35 he still refuses to believe that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Word made flesh and therefore must be worshipped and adored.
The opening scene in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane. Satan tries to tempt Christ by ridiculing the notion that he can redeem all men by his death. Then, under his breath, the Evil One contemptuously murmurs the following words: "Who is your father? . . . Who are you?" These words are significant, for they implicitly reveal the root of Satan's rebellion: a proud refusal to believe that Jesus is the Incarnate Word. We see analogous statements, revealing the same mentality, in the Gospels, when Satan tries to tempt Jesus: "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread . . . If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down [from the parapet of the Temple]" (Mt. 4:3, 6). Then Satan, after taking Jesus up atop a high mountain, shows Him "all the kingdoms in the world in their magnificence," and says: "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me" (Matt. 4:8-9). The fact that Satan demands that Jesus worship him clearly reveals his refusal to believe that Jesus is both God and man.
Why did Satan refuse to submit to the revelation of the Eternal Word taking flesh? Perhaps it was because he, the most beautiful and intelligent of all the angels,36 thought it inconceivable that God should become man and take a nature even lower than his own. Satan would not serve because Satan refused to believe. We might say that the "Prince of this World" was the first rationalist: in pride, he refused to submit in mind and will to what his great (though finite) angelic intellect could not fully fathom: the deep mystery of the Incarnation; a union of two natures in one Divine Person. While Satan and the fallen angels who joined him believe in God St. James tells us that "Even the demons believe . . . and tremble" (Jas. 2:19) they refuse to believe that Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word.
By contrast, Mary is the woman of faith. Her humble "Fiat" is an expression of her great faith, to which Elizabeth gives witness: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1:45). What was that message which Mary believed? It was this: that she would "conceive in [her] womb and bear a son" who "will be called the Son of the Most High" and "will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:31-32, 35). Mary's faith in the great mystery of the Incarnation, and in God's ability to effect this incomprehensible event within her, was in part due to her great humility. As Mary herself says in the Magnificat, the Lord "hath regarded the humility of his handmaid" (Luke 1:47).37 In God's salvific plan Mary, in her humility and her obedience in faith, is set in direct opposition to Satan's proud refusal to believe what God had revealed about His Son becoming man, and of his ongoing rebellion before God. In this sense the Evil Serpent is truly the anti-type of the spotless Virgin.
As a consequence of her great faith and her humble obedience to God's will, Mary became the Mother of God. And because of her perseverance in faith unto Calvary, she became the Mother of all the redeemed in the Order of Grace and now shares in her Son's victory on the Cross;38 a victory which will culminate in the final defeat of the Prince of Darkness: "She will crush thy head" (Gen. 3:15).
Scripture reveals that "crushing the heads" of all evildoers is part of the definitive victory of Christ over his enemies. Psalm 74  speaks of God, the "king from of old": "You smashed the heads of the dragons on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan" (Ps. 74 : 12-14). Psalm 110  says that the Christ, both King in the line of David and High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, "crushes kings on the day of wrath"; He who is "robed in splendor, judges nations" and "crushes heads across the wide earth" (Ps. 110 : 5-6).39 St. Paul promises that all who remain faithful and obedient to God will share in this activity; he says that if we are "wise to what is good and simple to what is evil, then the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet" (Rom. 16:19-20).40 However, Mary, who is the Mother of Christ, and both Mother and "Eschatological Icon" of the Church,41 will be given a privileged place among Christ's faithful in this glorious triumph of Christ over the Father of Lies and all who follow him. This is the meaning of the "woman" in Gen. 3:15, of which the valiant woman, Jael, is a type, who crushed the head of the evil general Sisera, when he attacked God's Chosen People. In Deborah's canticle she praises Jael, saying "Blessed among women be Jael"; and then continues: "With her left hand she reached for the peg, with her right, for the workman's mallet. She hammered Sisera, crushed his head; she smashed, stove in his temple. At her feet he sank down, fell, lay still; down at her feet he sank and fell" (Judges 5:24, 26-27).42
Bl. Pius IX, in his Apostolic Constitution defining the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Ineffabilis Deus, gives us an authoritative interpretation of Gen. 3:15 when, after quoting this verse, he says: "the most holy Virgin, united with [her divine Son] by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot." Pope John Paul II echoes and expands on these words, saying:
the Immaculate Conception does not mean only an exaltation of Mary, as if she had been transported outside of all those who have received the inheritance of the sin of our first parents.
On the contrary, it means her insertion into the very center of the spiritual combat, of this "enmity" that in the course of human history places the "Prince of Darkness" and the "Father of Lies" in opposition to the Woman and her seed.
Through the words of the Book of Genesis, we see Mary Immaculate in all the realism of her election. We see her at the culminating moment of this "enmity": at the foot of the Cross of Christ on Calvary. There "she will crush your head and you will strike her heel."43
In his own devotion to Mary and in founding the MI, St. Maximilian clearly saw Mary as actively engaged in the ongoing spiritual combat that is waged "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of the is darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places" (Eph. 6:12).44 The Martyr of Auschwitz also saw that in the end, this lowly Handmaid of the Lord, she who "cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array" (Song 6:9),45 will be victorious and, through the power and grace of Christ, render a most humiliating defeat upon the Evil Serpent: she will crush his proud head, which will usher in the definitive Reign of Christ as our King, and Mary as our Queen, along with the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.
1. Douay-Rheims trans. All other Scripture quotations will be taken from the New American Bible, unless otherwise noted.
2. Andre Frossard, Forget Not Love: The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe, trans. Cendrine Fontan (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 23.
3. Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe, Vol. I, no. 21, 36; in The MI in the Words of Its Founder, Vol. I: Selections from the Writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe on the Militia Immaculatae, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the General Topic of How One Lives the Life of an MI (unpublished work, undated, obtained from the Conventual Franciscan Friars of Marytown, Libertyville, Il.), 10; originally compiled by Fr. Bernard M. Geiger, OFM Conv.; additional editing by the Staff of the MI National Center (Libertyville, Il., USA).
4. Frossard, 68. In the above words we can see similarities between Kolbe's Marian consecration and that of de Montfort's, in light of the latter's notion of consecrating and entrusting everything to Mary; see, e.g., True Devotion nos. 121-25, 173.
5. Ibid., 109.
6. Fr. Luigi Faccenda, O.F.M. Conv., One More Gift: Total Consecration to the Immaculata According to the Spirituality of Saint Maximilian Kolbe (West Covina, California: Immaculata Press, 1990), 47.
7. God has revealed, through Scripture and Tradition, that Mary is our Mother in the Order of Grace; see CCC, nos. 967-970; quoting Lumen Gentium nos. 61 & 62.
8. "Ratisbonne's Conversion The MI's Inspiration," Immaculata (Jan./Feb. 1999), 17.
9. H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., Immaculatae Conception and the Holy Spirit, trans. Richard Arnandez, F.S.C. (Kenosha, Wisc.: Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, 1977), 6, quoting from a Letter to Fr. Anthony Vivoda by Kolbe, April 4, 1933.
10. Ibid., 57; quoting from Final Sketch by St. Maximilian Kolbe, Feb. 17, 1941. Bonamy's book has been republished and is available from Ignatius Press.
11. Ibid., 4, quoting from Final Sketch.
12. Ibid., 2-3, quoting from Final Sketch. St. Thomas says the word "conceives" can be used in two ways in regard to the divine processions; first, as an act of the intellect where one "conceives" an idea, and this is the manner in which he describes the Eternal Word proceeding from the Father (Summa Theologica I, Q. 27, a. 1 and a. 3); and second, as an act of the will, which he describes as "an impulse and movement toward an object" (S.T. I, Q. 27, a. 4). Thomas says "the procession of the will [of the Person of Love in the Trinity] is . . . by way of impulse and movement toward an object" (S.T., ibid.). Thomas does not give a proper name to this procession in the Trinity; Kolbe in essence does by calling the Holy Spirit the Uncreated, Eternal Immaculate Conception.
13. Ibid., 63.
14. Ibid., 91 quoting from Miles Immaculata, I, 1938, by Kolbe.
15. Ibid., 62.
16. True Devotion, no. 31.
17. Cf. Jn. 16:13-15: "When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will teach you to all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak . . . He shall glorify me: because he shall receive of mine, and will declare it to you. All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine. Therefore I said, that he shall receive of mine and will declare it to you." Douay-Rheims trans.
18. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 723: "Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit's power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful."
19. Ibid., 91, quoting from Miles Immaculatae, I, by Kolbe, 1938 (emphasis added). Cf. CCC 968-70, 722-26.
20. St. Maximilian Kolbe, Conference given Sept. 25, 1937; in Manteau-Bonamy, 102.
21. St. Maximilian Kolbe, Address given Sept. 8, 1936, in Faccenda, 62.
22. Faccenda, 51-52; citing St. Maximilian Kolbe, Sketch, Dec. 1937, Gli Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe, Eroe di Oswiecim e Beato della Chiesea, trans. Immaculata Press from materials compiled and trans. by Cristoforo Zambelli, 3 vols. (Florence: Critta di Vita, 1976-78), 3:776.
23. St. Maximilian Kolbe, "How the Militia of the Immaculata Began," Immaculata (Jan./Feb., 1999), 16: originally published in the Nov. 1935 issue of the Mugenzai no Seibo no Kishi, the Japanese Immaculata magazine, commemorating the eighteenth anniversary of the MI.
24. Geiger, 8-9; originally published in Miles Immaculatae (July-Sept., 1939, No. 3 (7), 66-72, trans. Fr. Bernard M. Geiger, OFM Conv. Miles Immaculatae was the Latin magazine for priests which Kolbe began publishing in 1938, and the July-Sept. issue was the last issue published by Kolbe.
25. CCC 494.
26. CCC 726.
27. A "type" is "a biblical person, thing, action, or event that foreshadows new truths, new actions, or new events"; and "a likeness must exist between the type and the archetype, but the latter is always greater." Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1980), s.v., "Types, Scriptural."
28. CCC 494.
29. Bl. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (The Immaculate Conception) (Dec. 8, 1854); Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (Against the Modernists) (Sept. 8, 1907), no. 57.
30. Cf. Jer. 2:20: "I will not serve." In this verse Israel's refusal to serve the Lord is likened to Satan's proud rebellion.
31. Rev. 12 also reveals the opposition between Mary, "the Woman," and Satan, the "huge red dragon."
32. Cf. CCC 391-92.
33. CCC 392.
34. CCC 393.
35. Cf. CCC 392-93.
36. Cf. Is. 14:12-15: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning: how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations? And thou sadist in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God . . . I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the pit." This is the Douay-Rheims trans., which is based on St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate, which uses "Lucifer." The NAB substitutes "morning star" for Lucifer. The text here refers to Nebuchodnezzar, King of Babylon, though the Fathers apply the reference to Lucifer to Satan, the Prince of Devils, who was created beautiful but fell by pride, desiring to be "like the Most High" in his rebellion, as did Nebuchodnezzar.
37. Douay-Rheims trans.
38. CCC 969-70.
39. Ps. 110:6, which speaks of Christ "crushing heads," may be unfamiliar to some even priests and religious who read the Liturgy of the Hours, in which Ps. 110 is prayed every Sunday evening at Vespers. Unfortunately, those who revised the Hours after Vatican II chose to exclude this verse from the Psalm, which now appears as Ps. 110 :1-5, 7. The exclusion of v. 6 partly empties Psalm 110  of its eschatological content.
40. Pope St. Gregory the Great says: "We crush the serpent's head, when we extirpate from our heart the beginnings of temptation," Moralia in Iob, Liber I, 36; Corpus Christianorum Latina 143, 55.
41. CCC 963; 972.
42. New American Bible trans. The Revised Standard Version is similar ". . . she struck Sis'era a blow, she crushed his head. . ." (v. 26). The Douay-Rheims has a different rendering of v. 26, but with essentially the same meaning: ". . . she struck Sisera, seeking in his head a place for the wound, and strongly piercing his temples."
43. "The Synod projects the Council toward the third millennium," Homily of Pope John Paul II at the close of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, Dec. 8, 1985, in L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Engl. Lang. Ed. (Dec. 16, 1985), 1-2.
44. Douay-Rheims trans.
45. Douay-Rheims trans.
Reverend Dwight P. Campbell is an S.T.D. Candidate at the International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton, Ohio. A Chicago native, he earned his Juris Doctor from Loyola University of Chicago in 1981 and practiced law for four years as an Assistant State's Attorney in downstate Illinois before entering the seminary in 1986. Since his ordination in 1991 he has served in a number of parishes, and worked for two years as a high school chaplain. His last article in HPR appeared in October 2004.
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