•February 11, 2012•
Pope Paul VI placed St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe “among the great Saints and enlightened spirits who have understood, venerated and sung the mystery of Mary,” (1) and Pope John Paul II placed in relief the prophetic vision and great value of St. Maximilian’s life and Mariology for the Church today. (2) Consequently, St. Maximilian’s Mariological doctrine has already been the subject of studies at the highest level of systematic research and scholarship. (3) With regards to his doctrine on Marian Coredemption, there is a detailed study by L. Iammorrone. (4)
St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe († 1941)
The coredemptive thought of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe is of great value for several reasons. He was our contemporary, and more importantly, was a great mystic and Marian theologian, besides being such an extraordinary apostle and missionary of the Immaculate as to be called the “Fool of the Immaculate,” (5) and to be defined by the Ven. Fr. Gabriel Allegra, his contemporary, as an “Apostle of the end times,” (6) recalling the thought of St. Louis Mary Grignon de Montfort. (7)
First of all, it must be stated that St. Maximilian was not only diffusing and defending the truth of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s universal Mediation, but was writing, praying, and ardently longing for the solemn dogmatic definition of Mary as Mediatrix of salvation (Coredemption) and Mediatrix of all graces (Dispensatrix). As a matter of fact, as soon as he knew that Pope Benedict XV had named three commissions of study on the definability of Marian Mediation, he wrote an article in which he exhorted all to pray “so that our Most Holy Mother might hasten the moment of the Solemn proclamation of this her privilege.” (8)
In addition to the eternal predestination of Mary with Christ according to the celebrated Franciscan thesis, (9) St. Maximilian too based the Holy Virgin Mary’s coredemptive and distributive Mediation on the biblical-patristic foundation of Mary as the New Eve. Reflecting, as such, on the original fall of Adam and Eve, our first parents, St. Maximilian maintains that “from that moment God promised a Redeemer and a Coredemptrix saying: ‘I will place enmities between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and her Seed; She shall crush thy head.’” (10) “The Fathers and Doctors of the Church,” writes the Saint again, “proclaim that She, the second Eve, repaired that which the first had ruined; that She is the channel of the divine graces, She is our hope and our refuge; that we receive the grace of God through Her.” (11) One easily reads here the equivalence between the Reparation and the Coredemption, in parallel with the devastating action of the Eve of old with the salvific action of the New Eve: both Eves presented as protagonists, respectively, in the fall and ruin of humanity (the first Eve), and in their ransom and salvation (the second Eve).
It is clear from the writings of St. Maximilian that for him the most certain truth, the most secure and unquestionable doctrine, and therefore the least needy of demonstration, was that of Marian Coredemption; whether because of the very clear reference to the devastating work of the first Eve neutralized by the reparative work of the second Eve (Mary), or because of the very life of Our Lady utterly bound, spent, and consumed in an indivisible union with that of her divine Son in the work of the universal Redemption from beginning to end, that is from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion, from Nazareth to Calvary.
On the other hand, it seemed to St. Maximilian that the doctrine most in need of in-depth theological elaboration was that of Marian Mediation, the distributing of all graces, which is consequent to the Coredemption and which he links above all with the mystery of the ineffable union between the Holy Spirit and the Immaculate Virgin, a spousal union which creates a perfect collaboration in the distributive economy of all graces for the salvation and sanctification of men. (12)
All that aside, St. Maximilian did render an account of the complexity of things surrounding Marian Coredemption which were in the process of being clarified and developed. He wrote that, “It is clear that our relationship with Mary Coredemptrix and Dispensatrix of graces in the economy of Redemption was not understood from the beginning in all its perfection. But in these, our times, faith in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s mediation is always growing more and more each day.” (13)
As for his thought specifically on the Coredemption, however, we can say in summary that St. Maximilian, by reasoning and reflecting, profoundly grasped both the expressly Christological value of Marian Coredemption and the pneumatological value of Mary’s mediation of all graces; he affirms that “Mary, as Mother of Jesus the Savior, becomes Coredemptrix, while as Spouse of the Holy Spirit she takes part in the distribution of all graces.” (14) Fr. Domanski writes that according to the Mariological thought of St. Maximilian, it was the plan of God “that His own Mother, the Immaculate, should take part in the work of the Redemption, as she had likewise taken part in the work of the Incarnation.” (15) And the demonstration which St. Maximilian took from a study of Bittremieux affirms that “… as the first Eve, with truly free actions, contributed to our ruin, in that she exercised a real influence, so also Mary, with her own actions, collaborated in the reparation…: in this is contained, by now in a most clear manner and properly speaking, an authentic mediation.” (16)
The doctrine of St. Maximilian is presented as logical and luminous in its solidity of method and development: “In the thought of Fr. Kolbe,” writes Fr. Iammarrone, “Christ is the only universal Mediator between humanity and the Father… Mary is chosen by God as Mother of the Son and thus Mediatrix of grace because she must accompany Him inseparably in the realization of the Redemption. Son and Mother labor together in originating the life of grace (Redemption and Coredemption) and in distributing that life to men.” (17) Always retaining the complete subordination of the Mother with respect to the Son, the biblical-patristic reference to the first Eve with the first Adam once again pointedly and precisely indicates the camp of the opposing operations: that is, the operation of our ruin, which had as its absolute and primary operator the first Adam, with the first Eve as its relative and dependent co-operator, and the operation of our salvation, which had as its absolute and primary Operator the second Adam, Jesus, with the second Eve, Mary, as its relative and dependent Co-operator.
This, according to St. Maximilian, is the plan of God. “In the divine plan of salvation,” writes again Fr. Iammorrone, “Mary is the New Eve who collaborates together with the New Adam, Jesus her Son, in the Redemption of man. In Fr. Kolbe’s thought Mary’s cooperation is subordinate to that of Christ the Redeemer, but it is immediate and proximate, active and direct… Mary, in the thought of Fr. Kolbe, participated in the Redemption in the objective sense (that is in the acquiring of salvation with her own proper activity united and associated to that original activity of the Son) and she participates in the Redemption in the subjective sense, that is in the distribution of the graces of salvation to each person in the course of time right up to the coming of the Lord in glory,” and in this way “Mary fully realizes her maternity with her maternal compassion on Calvary.” (18)
From his thought taken as a whole, it is obvious that for St. Maximilian such doctrine on Mary’s coredemptive and distributive mediation of grace is well founded and solid. And regarding his personal experience, it cannot be considered anything less than superlative, recalling his terrible martyrdom in the deathcamp of Auschwitz, which assimilated him in an extraordinary way to the coredemptive offering of the Blessed Mother. No one, in fact, is so close and so similar to the Coredemptrix as the martyr. The supreme glory of the Coredemptrix, in truth, is precisely that of being the Queen of the Martyrs. Even in this St. Maximilian has left us his orthodoxy (the doctrine on the Coredemptrix) which is perfectly united with his orthopraxy (the most concrete imitation of the Coredemptrix, that of shedding one’s own blood).
Master and Model of the doctrine and spirituality of Marian Coredemption: this is St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe. (19) Consequently, concerning the coredemptive and distributive mediation of Mary, one can say that, according to St. Maximilian, there is not much to discuss, but rather there is much need to pray so that the Immaculate “might hasten the moment of the solemn proclamation” of this dogma on the part of the Church.
Fr. Stefano Manelli, FI, is Founder and Minister General of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. He is internationally known for his distinguished preaching and biblical, Mariological scholarship. His biblical Mariology has recently appeared in English under the title: All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed.
(1) Insegnamenti di Paulo VI, Rome, IT, 1971, vol. IX, p. 909.
(2) Cf. L’Osservatore Romano 8-9, XII, 1982.
(3) It is sufficient to cite the weighty volume of the Acts of the International Congress held at Rome in 1984: La Mariologia di san Massimiliano M. Kolbe, Rome, IT, 1985.
(4) This is one of the conferences held at the International Mariological Symposium “Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia,” celebrated at Castelpetroso, IT, Sept. 8-12, 1997, where twenty theologians coming from every part of the world participated (cf. S.M. MANELLI, Cronistoria del Simposio con rilievi, spunti e riflessioni, in Corredemptrix in Annali Mariani, 1966, Castelpetroso, 1997, pp. 133-171). The conference of Fr. L. IAMMORRONE, Il mistero di Maria Corredentrice in san Massimiliano Maria Kolbe, is found in AA.VV., Maria Corredentrice, Frigento, IT, 1999, vol. II, pp. 219-256.
(5) One can profit from reading the life of this apostle synthesized by S.M. MANELLI, “Folle dell’Immacolata,” Frigento, IT 1990, 120 pages.
(6) G. ALLEGRA, Apostolo degli ultimi tempi, in Miles Immaculatae 18 (1982), pp. 156-162.
(7) Ibid., pp. 160, 162.
(8) ST. MAXIMILIAN MARY KOLBE, Scritti, Rome, IT 1997, n. 1029 (quotations abbreviated: Scritti and the margin number).
(9) “The participation of Mary in the redemptive work of her Son,” writes Fr. Iammarrone, “is founded, according to Fr. Kolbe, in the eternal decree of Mary’s predestination together with her divine Son.”: L. IAMMARRONE, work cited, p. 221; cf. also pp. 223-247.
(10) Scritti, 1069.
(11) Scritti, 1029.
(12) Cf. H.M. MANTEAU-BONAMY, La dottrina mariana di p. Kolbe. Lo Spirito Santo e l’Immacolata, Rome, IT, 1977; G. BARTOSIK, Rapporti tra lo Spirito Santo e Maria come principio della mediazione mariana, negli ultimi scritte (1935-1941) di s. Massimiliano Kolbe, in Miles Immaculatae 27 (1991), 244-68.
(13) Scritti, 1229.
(15) G. DOMANSKI, Il pensiero mariano di P. Massimiliano M. Kolbe, Rome, IT 1971, p. 38.
(16) J. BITTREMIEUX, De Mediatione universale B.M.V., in Scritti, 1.c.
(17) Work cited, p. 237.
(18) Ibid., pp. 244, 245, 246.
(19) Certainly very little has been written on the coredemptive spirituality of St. Maximilian, coredemptive insofar as he was a martyr and one who suffered (illness of tuberculosis and always generous in sacrifices without number). There would indeed be much to discover and write in order to deeply comprehend the vital bond which united the Holy Martyr to the mystery of the Immaculate in her universal, coredemptive mission, and in order to make our own the school of life and Marian spirituality in a coredemptive key which he has left us, so that we might be ever closer and more faithful children of her whom Jesus gave us on Calvary, not only as Mother, but also as Coredemptrix, or, even better yet, as Mother Coredemptrix, that is, He has left the Coredemptrix as our very own Mother.