On August 14th, the Feast Day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., received the annual Kolbe Award at Marytown in Libertyville, IL. The annual award is given to those who mirror St. Maximilian’s charisms of heroic charity and self-sacrifice. Father McCurry is the past president Militia Immaculata, Kolbean scholar and Mariologist.
The first four awards were given to Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC, the family rosary priest; Fr. John Hardon, SJ, founder of the IRL; Mother Teresa, who needs no introduction; and Bishop Austin Vaughn who was imprisoned many times for his pro-life activities. Illustrious company!
Fr. McCurry did not set out to be the long-time promoter of the Militia Immaculata (MI), the organization founded by St. Maximilian in 1917 to encourage total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a means of spiritual renewal for individuals and society. This is how it happened at least in part…..
Father McCurry, during his funny yet profound remarks upon receiving the award, told of his encounter with Pope John Paul II at the canonization of St. Maximilian in 1982. He asked the Holy Father if he would pray that we might all be as consecrated to Mary as St. Maximilian was. The Pope did not hear him at first and said, “huh?” Speaking more loudly, the question then prompted a smile on the Holy Father’s face. He pointed to Father McCurry and said, “You do that!”
Taking this as a papal command, Father McCurry did do it as the long-time president of the Militia Immaculata. The MI’s mission is “To Lead Every Individual With Mary to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Following in the footsteps of Father McCurry would be a good place to start. If you would like information about consecrating yourself to Mary in the Militia Immaculata, please visit Marytown’s website.
Today is the Feast of the Miraculous Medal and tomorrow we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Catherine Laboure who propagated the devotion. It testifies to the power of the Miraculous Medal that an “inanimate” object gets its own feast day!
One of the most famous converts due to Our Lady’s intercession via the Miraculous Medal is Alphonse Ratisbonne (1814-1884). While I was living in Jerusalem at Ecce Homo Convent (run by the Sisters of Sion) on a sabbatical from my computer job, I visited the Sisters of Sion’s convent in Ein Karim. While wandering through their incredible garden of Eden of fruits and foliage, I stumbled across Alponses’ grave in a remote corner of the garden. How did his remains get there? I was so driven to find out that I ended up writing a book called “A Spiritual Pilgrimage to France.”
Anyway, Alphonse, a Jewish non-believer, was dared by a friend while visiting Rome to wear a Miraculous Medal and to pray the Memorarae twice a day. He did so and while in the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte had a vision of the Blessed Mother and was instantly converted. His brother Theodore, a Catholic convert and priest, had the joy of announcing in the Basilica of Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris that his brother had become “a fully believing Catholic.” This is the same Church that filled St. Therese of Lisieux with delight as she made her journey to Rome before her entrance into Carmel. Sant’Andrea delle Fratte is also the Church where St. Maximilian Kolbe celebrated his first Mass, at the very altar where Alphonse experienced his vision. We at the IRL are privileged to be housed at Marytown, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian, a great proponent of the Miraculous Medal. Life is full of twists and turns and coincidences.
To wind things back up, Alphonse after his conversion became a Catholic priest and with his brother Theodore co-founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion and came to the Holy Land to bring the Good News to the Jewish people. He built Ecce Homo convent on the Via Dolorosa, run by the Sisters of Sion, which today is a pilgrim house and hosts a biblical studies program. I was there as a volunteer for three months, an experience I highly recommend.
Alphonse died in Ein Karim and was buried inside the walls of the Sisters of Sion’s convent. His room at Ecce Homo is left as it was when he was alive. Maybe if you ask the sisters, you can have a private viewing.
God bless all who wear the Miraculous Medal with faith. May the Blessed Mother be their protectress and intercessor for all their needs, all through their lives.
In this beautiful prayer composed by St. Maximilian Kolbe, he meditates on the unknown prayers that have lifted the burdens of the bewildered, the hurt and the distressed. On this Feast of the Presentation of Mary, let us give thanks for the cloistered and monastic religious for their selfless prayers.
One nun said to me, “It is rare that we hear how are prayers have borne fruit.” Perhaps this day, thank a religious for their prayers for you, for our priests, for those who have no one to pray for them.
The day was long,
The burden I had borne
Seemed heavier than I could longer bear
And then it lifted-but I did not know
Some one had knelt in prayer;
Had taken me to God that very hour,
And asked the easing of the load, and He,
In infinite compassion, had stooped down
And taken it from me.
We cannot tell how often as we pray
For some bewildered one,
Hurt and distressed,
The answer comes,
But many times those hearts
Find sudden peace and rest.
Some one had prayed, and Faith, a reaching hand,
Took hold of God, and brought Him down that day!
So many, many hearts have need of prayer.
Oh, let us pray!
Two weeks ago, the Conventual Franciscans celebrated the simple professions of seven young men. Friar Patrick from New York, Friar Joseph from Ireland, Friar Israel from Nevada, Friar Don from Texas, Friar Thomas from California, Friar Colton from New York and Friar Gregory from Australia professed the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and received the cincture with the three cords as a reminder of the evangelical counsels that they promise to follow.
How wonderful that these young men will continue the tradition of not only St. Francis of Assisi but also of his spiritual son, St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we celebrate today. The professions took place at Marytown which is the National Shrine of St. Maximilian. The American Novitiate, located in Mishawaka, Indiana, is where the novices take classes on the Franciscan rule, constitutions, vows, Church documents of the consecrated life and its history, prayer forms, Scripture, communication, Mariology and the Secular Franciscan Order.
According to Brother Paschal Kolodziej, their order “has always had a great emphasis on community and prayer. Many young people are attracted to this call to be a friar minor. Our call is to be a ‘lesser brother’ to all those we minister to. That can take many forms and ministries.” He adds that “the fraternal aspect attracts young people who are looking for a sense of belonging. We have always been of service to the Church in many different ways. Obedience to the Church has always been one of our hallmarks.”
St. Maximilian, the “martyr of charity” who was killed in Auschwitz in 1941, wanted to “win the world for the Immaculata.” May these seven friars in their various ministries draw many souls to Christ through the loving hands Mary, His mother.
For those of you in the Chicagoland area, the IRL and Marytown (home to the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe) are sponsoring Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz, a drama performed FREE by Leonardo Defilippis of St. Luke Productions on Sunday, September 23, 2012, @ 6:30 PM, at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Auditorium in Mundelein, Illinois.
There is no charge for the performance but you must register in advance by calling Marytown at (847)367-7800 ext 226 or visit the Marytown Gift Shop at 1600 West Park Avenue in Libertyville, IL, 60048.
The Conventual Franciscans of the St. Bonaventure Province, an IRL Affiliate, are the guardians of the shrine to St. Maximilian. Their beautiful chapel has adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, open to the public, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It is located on the property adjacent to the Mundelein Seminary where the drama will take place. Stop by and pay the Lord a visit!